Research Article

For debate . . . Individual contributions to multiauthor papers.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983; 287 doi: (Published 26 November 1983) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983;287:1608
  1. S D Moulopoulos,
  2. D A Sideris,
  3. K A Georgilis


    The curricula vitae of four candidates for a professorial appointment at Athens University were examined to estimate the actual contribution of each candidate to the papers of which he was a coauthor. A total of 879 research papers by the four candidates were analysed in terms of the number of authors, the sequence of names, and the year of publication. The four authors presented 364, 349, 96, and 70 papers. If an equal contribution of all coauthors is assumed, the actual number of papers (all papers divided by the number of authors), is about 106, 83, 28, and 26, respectively, so that the rank of the four candidates did not change. On the assumption that the contribution was related to the candidate's position in the order of the coauthors' names, the numbers of papers were corrected to 84, 95, 26, 33 using one statistical method and to 88, 94, 28, 31 using another. These assumptions may not be valid, however, especially as the last author may be more important than the intermediate ones. It is suggested that the journals require authors to state their specific contribution to a paper, such as original idea, planning, collecting data, writing up, etc.