Credit Where It Is Due

Nov 02 2011 Published by under [Information&Communication]

The American Diabetes Association finally got my address changed, and the October issue of Diabetes (Impact Factor 8.505) waited patiently on my desk this morning. It includes a genome-wide association study that caught my eye, but not for its content. The first two pages are shown below:


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The article includes 103 individual authors and 5 consortia. Sixty-four individuals precede the large study groups. The first page of the journal article proved insufficient to hold the title, authors, and affiliations.

This study was so massive the acknowledgments section states, "Please see the Supplementary Data."

When you pull the citation up in PubMed, an expandable list of 726 collaborators follows the author list.

Clearly, the scientific enterprise for such studies exceeds the printed page, yet we cling to a printed journal model. We also give credit for such studies based on methodology from an earlier century. The days are long gone of solo scientists with labs in an outbuilding on their own estate. Significant studies, especially those exploring genomics and  proteomics, require more clinical material (patients and specimens) than any single center (in this case, more than any single consortium) can provide.  The utility of these studies depend on phenotyping of the patients, something that comes down to the physicians, nurses, and other personnel who perform examinations, measure blood pressure, and collect samples for routine studies that are considered part of routine clinical care. Will an online acknowledgement give those frontline people adequate credit to advance their careers?

Will being the 64th author (just before the consortia) confer more prestige than being 65th (just after the consortia)? What are the rules for ordering 103 authors?

I suspect a lot of papers will soon include this sort of "author list." I wonder if journals that require listing all authors in the bibliography will change to "3 plus et al" as this becomes more prevalent?

7 responses so far

  • Pat says:

    I am curious to know what the first author had in mind when it was time to send the manuscript to co-authors for feedback !! lol

  • Rules for ordering for genome papers seem to be: a few important folks get proper ordering based on contribution at the beginning; someone gets to be last; and everyone else gets put in alphabetical order. But sometimes there are tiers of alphabetical order.

    It brings a whole new meaning to "third author" too.

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