The Perception of Scientific Authorship Across Domains

Abstract

We extend previous research by systematically investigating whether perceptions of scientific authorship vary between domains. Employing regulations for authorship of scientific journals as well as the Scientists Survey 2016 conducted by the German Centre for Higher Education Research and Science Studies (DZHW), we provide a comprehensive picture of perceptions of scientific authorship across domains from the perspective of the supply side (journals) as well as the demand side (researchers). We find considerable differences in the perception of authorship across disciplines on both sides. Hence, not only domain-specific “formal norms,” but also domain-specific statements about ideals can be observed with regard to scientific authorship. The results have important implications: in order to avoid that researchers in disciplines with much narrower definitions of authorship are disadvantaged when compared to their colleagues from disciplines that rely on broader authorship definitions, domain-specific perceptions of authorship should be taken into account when allocating funding and jobs.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We build on previous studies that analyze the development of the number of co-authors by looking at the mean number of authors per paper. One might argue that the mean may be distorted by hyper-authorship publications occurring first and foremost in the Natural Sciences. Therefore, looking at the median instead might be the better choice. However, analyzing the median number of authors per paper lead to similar results.

  2. 2.

    For example, studies conducted by professional medical writing companies that recruit academics with a high reputation as alleged authors.

  3. 3.

    Please note that co-authorship practices may not only vary between domains, but also between publication types (e.g., articles, book chapters) within the same domain, even though to a smaller degree.

  4. 4.

    The FOS provides 42 minor fields such as Psychology and Medical Engineering within the major fields. However, we will only use the major field classification in this study as case numbers are too low for using the more detailed minor field classification.

  5. 5.

    Journals with a high impact factor often publish reviews that get on average more citations than research articles (Mayuru and Mabe 2000). In addition, the classification of disciplines often groups minor fields together that have different publication patterns – this explains why five Social Science journals are from the field of Psychology. However, this overview is intended to be non-exhaustive and should serve illustrative purposes by using major journals.

  6. 6.

    We use the following Web of Science databases for the analyses: Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Sciences Citation Index, and Arts & Humanities Citation Index.

  7. 7.

    Journals can be assigned to more than one discipline by the Web of Science. In case a journal was picked for more than one discipline, we randomly assigned it to one of the disciplines and selected a new journal from the set. This was the case for “Advanced Energy Materials” which classifies as an interdisciplinary journal for the Natural Sciences as well as Engineering and Technology.

  8. 8.

    We used Mplus 6 to run LCA (Muthén and Muthén 1998–2010).

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Acknowledgments

Order of co-authors is alphabetical. The authors contributed equally to this manuscript. We would like to thank Kathrin Thomas and Theresa Kernecker for their helpful comments on previous drafts. We would also like to thank Jakob Kemper and Erik Wenker for their assistance with the coding of the regulations for authorship of scientific journals. Last but not least we would like to thank the anonymous reviewers as well as the participants of several conferences and workshops for their constructive and concise feedback.

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Table 3 LCA fit statistics
Table 4 Average Latent Class Probabilities for Most Likely Latent Class Membership (Row) by Latent Class (Column)

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Johann, D., Mayer, S.J. The Perception of Scientific Authorship Across Domains. Minerva 57, 175–196 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11024-018-9363-3

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Keywords

  • Perception of scientific authorship
  • Co-Authorship
  • Publication ethics
  • Disciplinary cultures