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Publish (in a group) or perish (alone): the trend from single- to multi-authorship in biological papers

Abstract

The global number of papers in different areas has increased over the years. Additionally, changes in academic production scenarios, such as the decrease in the relative number of single-authored (SA) papers, have been observed. Thus, the aims of this study are to assess the trend of SA papers in four subareas of biology and also to estimate the year when 0.1 % of papers in these subareas will be SA (considering two adjusted models). The subareas investigated were Ecology, Genetics, Zoology and Botany. Our hypothesis is that all subareas show a decay in the number of SA papers. However, this pattern is more pronounced in subareas that were originally interdisciplinary (Genetics and Ecology) than in disciplinary areas (Zoology and Botany). In fact, SA papers have declined over the years in all subareas of biology, and according to the best model (Akaike Criteria), the first area that will have 0.1 % SA papers is Genetics, followed by Ecology. A partial regression indicates that the decrease in SA papers can be related to the increase in the number of authors and number of citations, suggesting the greater scientific impact of interdisciplinary research. However, other variables (e.g., political, linguistic and behavioral) can contribute to the decrease in SA papers. We lastly conclude that the number of SA papers in all subareas of biology in the coming years might continue decreasing and becoming rare, perhaps even to the point of extinction (to use a very common term in biology). In addition, all subareas of biology have become more interdisciplinary, combining the knowledge of various authors (and perhaps authors from different areas). The consequence of this approach is increasingly collaborative work, which may facilitate the increased success of the group.

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Acknowledgments

We thank two anonymous reviewers for discussions and suggestions that improved previous versions of the manuscript. MRP received a scholarship from CNPq (PIBIC). JCN, FBT, HFC, SSC were partially supported by CAPES and Fundação de Amparo a Pesquisa do Estado de Goiás (Auxpe 2036/2013). JCN and TNS were supported by CNPq productivity fellowships. FBT, HFC, and SSC were supported by University Research and Scientific Production Support Program (PROBIP/UEG)

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Correspondence to João Carlos Nabout.

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Nabout, J.C., Parreira, M.R., Teresa, F.B. et al. Publish (in a group) or perish (alone): the trend from single- to multi-authorship in biological papers. Scientometrics 102, 357–364 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-014-1385-5

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-014-1385-5

Keywords

  • Ecology
  • Genetics
  • Zoology
  • Botany
  • Non-linear models