Sunday, 8 March 2009

Multiple authorship

New Scientist, in its Feedback column of 18 July 1998, wondered how may scientists it takes to write a research paper. Their readers discovered some remarkable papers. One with 562 authors in Physics Letters B (vol 231, p 539). Then another with 596 authors in Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research (vol 289, p 35). 718 authors were found on one paper in The Canadian Journal of Cardiology (vol 12, p 127). But the clear winner appears to be something identified by the judges of the 1993 Ig Nobel Prize for literature. They deemed E. Topol, R. Califf, F. Van de Werf, P. W. Armstrong and their 972 coauthors (The New England Journal of Medicine, vol 329, p 673) worthy of the award for their achievement in "publishing a medical research paper which has one hundred times as many authors as pages". Can that record be beaten?

They also thought about which paper cited the largest number of institutions. One reader found 143 institutions listed in a single paper in The Lancet (vol 342, p 821).

And we thought multiple authorship was getting excessive!

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Reading, Berkshire, United Kingdom

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