Intended for healthcare professionals

Publish And Be Damned

The A to Z of authorship: analysis of influence of initial letter of surname on order of authorship

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 22 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1460
  1. Ruth Chambers, professor of primary care developmenta,
  2. Elizabeth Boath, heada,
  3. Steph Chambers (, pupilb
  1. a Centre for Health Policy and Practice, School of Health, Staffordshire University, Stafford ST18 0AD
  2. b Newcastle under Lyme School, Newcastle under Lyme ST5 1DB
  1. Correspondence to: R Chambers

    The initial letter of a surname is commonly used to distinguish an individual from a cohort of people, from school to academic level. Having a surname with an initial letter towards the end of the alphabet is regarded by some as a disadvantage; Larry Adler's grandfather, born Zelakovitch, changed his surname “after growing tired of being at the end of every queue.”1

    An ongoing debate concerns the value of authorship that does not “make clear who has contributed what to the published study, nor … clarify who is responsible for the overall content.”2 Some journals, for example the Lancet, require and publish authors' specified contributions. 3 4 The BMJ is not prescriptive, accepts both approaches, …

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