More for the co-equal contribution authorship dealiobob fans

Dec 21 2012 Published by under Science Publication, Scientific Publication

First, let's all enjoy the bliss of, count 'em, EIGHT authors who....

1D.S., A.B., M. Maroteaux, T.J., C.P.M., R.S., J.-A.G., and G.S. contributed equally to this work.

To make it extra hilarious please note that the first four are listed first authors and the last four are...listed last authors.

This is ridiculous. Going by the affiliations of the first four and the last four (and knowing a little something about the careers status of several of the last four) it looks very much like typical trainee-PI pairings in a multi-group collaboration. Consequently it would make considerably more sense to identify the four trainees and the four PIs as contributing equally compared with each other...but not across the trainee/PI divide.

But really, the discussion of the day is raised by a troll communication to the blog.

As you know there are style guides for journals as to how previous studies are to be cited and how they are to be referred to in the text. One typical style guide might suggest that you use "As shown by Gun et al (2009), the PhysioWhimple nucleus is critical in...". You might also resort to the more conversational "Gun and colleagues demonstrated...".

Very good, right?

Now what about when the paper in question indicates co-equal contribution, eh? Then you should say "Genedog, Tideliar and colleagues showed....". Right? You should absolutely insist on including the name of the co-equal authors, should you not?

Especially if you are one of those who insists that this designation is meaningful...

h/t: a certain troll

19 responses so far

  • molliebatmit says:

    My lab absolutely does.

    In all of my PI's talks, he credits both co-firsts in words/pictures ("X and Y did this project...") and in citations on the slides ("X, Y, et al"). He instructs all lab members to do the same in talks that we give.

    We are writing a review right now, and intend to fight for the ability to cite both names in the text, as a large percentage of the important recent papers in our subfield have been co-first.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I'll be interested to see what the journal style editor has to say about this....

  • Pascale says:

    The first example in the post would have four names followed by "and colleagues."
    This may be the best justification for the use of the passive voice I have yet seen.

  • GM says:

    I've had the experience of trying to cite all first authors and have it rejected by the journal. So that's an issue indeed, but it's one that's easily fixable - the journals change their style guidelines.

    The bigger problem is that I simply do not have the time and energy to check asterisks for all papers I cite. The ones I know well enough to remember who was co-first author, I diligently try to cite as they should be cited. But those are mostly the ones I or people very close to me have been involved while the others I just go by the first name and my guess is this is what everyone else does too.

    Also, there are the journals which use only numbers of citing articles within the text - there that's completely lost.

  • Virgil says:

    I avoid names in citations wherever possible, preferring to say "it has been shown that", instead of "whatsisname has shown that". It avoids personalizing things, which can offend some reviewers is they dislike the person being cited. With the non personal cite, it's just a number in the text and they might not even look at who the authors are. Result = less bias.

  • A Certain Troll says:

    Indeed. Try to cite both and you might receive proofs with the phrase "real first author."

  • hidde says:

    "As shown by Gun et al (2009), the PhysioWhimple nucleus is critical in...". You might also resort to the more conversational "Gun and colleagues demonstrated..."."it has been shown that"

    I think that these examples (culled from the above posts), a stylistic improvement would be to use a simple declarative sentence, followed by a numbered reference :
    "The PhysioWhimple nucleus is critical in... ( ref 9)."

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Boooo-ring.

  • Miles says:

    DM, you have to see this in the national context of these authors. For us, it's ridiculous. But there are e.g several German authors on this paper. For them, administrative bean-counting often determines allocation of unrestricted internal bonus funds per impact point. But only if they are first or corresponding last authors...

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Really? Interesting.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Do the counters allocate an eighth of a bean to each of the equal authors?

  • Eli Rabett says:

    In Eli's field you cite both if there are two authors and the first in the list never mind the little stars if there are more.

  • Miles says:

    Really! They do this. And no. No bean splitting For many institutions is counts as full. No matter how many times you split it up.
    In my old institution it was 1,000 Euro per impact point. Considering its PNAS it's a nice chunk of cash. Very attractive. The admins didn't and don't get this work-around.

    To me, that's the only explanation for a behavior like that. I think they all know how foolish it look to the outside.

  • molliebatmit says:

    DM: "I'll be interested to see what the journal style editor has to say about this...."

    Well, we'll try. And the editors can say no, and we can insist, and they'll either change their minds or they won't.

  • Joe says:

    "Then you should say "Genedog, Tideliar and colleagues showed....". Right? "
    Yes, of course, but it's not going to happen. Who even remembers that Tideliar was on that paper? If you are Tideliar, you're second author, no matter what the asterisks say. You will not be mentioned in the citations in the text.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    Yet another argument for alphabetical listing of authors in all cases where n>3, with specific contribution descriptions for each author.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Nobody puts Tideliar in the corner...

  • DrugMonkey says:

    "An Eighth of a Bean" would make a smashing blog title.

  • [...] situation prompted me to tweet that I am about ready to give someone authorship (co-8th, of course) for cleaning up the mess left by the first author. To my surprise, several responded that would do [...]

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