Anderson, Christopher. "Writer's Cramp," Nature 355 (9 January 1992), p. 101.

 

Anderson, Christopher. "Writer's Cramp," Nature 355 (9 January 1992), p. 101.

The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) of Philadelphia published its list of the most prolific
researchers in the world. "Twenty researchers worldwide have published an article at least once
every 11.3 days over the past decade... The top five reserchers have published more that (sic)
once a week."

A scientist manages to publish that much only by putting his name on papers deriving from the
laboratory he runs. Some scientists apparently put their names on everything coming from their
labs. But, at least in part because of the Baltimore case, the issue of authorship is one of concern
to scientists. "Debate over authorship is nothing new. The senior scientist who puts his name of
every paper in his laboratory has become a virtual stereotype. At the Russian Institute of
Volcanic Geology and Geochemistry either this year, ten geologists actually went on a hunger
strike to protest a ‘autocratic' director who forced institute researchers to list him as a co-author
on their papers..."

There are other causes for concern: "Last November, after receiving a paper with more than 200
co-authors (including departmental secretaries), the New England Journal of Medicine
announced new authorship policies. It would henceforth require that anyone designated an author
make ‘substantial contribution' to three elements of the research: conception, design, or analysis
and interpretation of the experiments; drafting or critically revising the article; and reviewing and
approving the final draft."

"Although there may never be firm, interdisciplinary rules about authorship, prolific researchers
do seem to be aware now of the perils of appending their names to work they have not closely
supervised."