First thing we do, let’s kill all the authors. On subverting an outmoded tradition (Force2015 talk)

This is a rough approximation (with some esprit d’escalier_ ) of my speaking script from my talk at the “Credit where Credit is Due”: session at Force2015, January 13, 2015. We were asked to be controversial, so I tried to oblige._

More on Aauthors and Aalphabetical placement

In an earlier post today, I discussed some of the economic implications of having a last name beginning early in the alphabet in disciplines that traditionally order the authors on multi-author papers alphabetically.

I’ve since looked up the original paper (Einav, Liran, and Leeat Yariv. 2006. “What’s in a Surname? The Effects of Surname Initials on Academic Success.” The Journal of Economic Perspectives 20 (1): 175–88). This is more startling than I thought.

First of all, from the authors’ own description:

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A is for Aardvark and author. The economic implications of having a last name with an early letter in the alphabet

In many disciplines, when more than one researcher contributes to a paper, the authors are listed in terms of the relative contribution: the first author is assumed to have done the most work, the second the second most, and so on until the last position, which is often as prestigious as first.

In other disciplines, however, the tradition is to order author names alphabetically.

This can be unfair to authors whose names come later in the alphabet, because citation conventions for multiple author contributions usually spell out the names of only the first two or three authors.

But it turns out it can also have career and financial implications. As Marusic, Bosnjak, et al. (see?) report:

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The credit line

I think it is time to get rid of authorship altogether, at least in research communication.

All should have prizes: Thinking about citation practice for the Visionary Cross Project

With the first meshes almost ready, and work beginning on writing up some of the results from our work on site in Ruthwell, authorship and credit questions at the Visionary Cross project are beginning to become more pressing.

Good practice, of course, would be to establish a system long in advance and stick to it throughout. The Visionary Cross project, however, has always operated as a relatively loose federation of scholars rather than a single project (more of a society, than a project in many ways) and, due in part to the long time it took to get major initial funding, crediting issues have until recently seemed quite far in the future. Read the rest of this entry »


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