29 May 2012

Authorship Slippery

Academia has a whole world of customs surrounding authorship credit for academic papers. Sometimes, it can be overinclusive, particular in "big science" fields:
[I]n experimental particle physics, my field of research, you just need to be accepted as a member of a large collaboration and you are done: papers will be published with your name on them even if you cannot spell their title. I have been in this business for almost twenty years, and my paper count is well over 700. My H-Index is probably in the whereabouts of 60 or so, which would be stratospheric for almost any other field of research, but is not uncommon in high-energy physicists of my age. You might be asking yourself whether I consider those papers as my own. Did I write them ? No, I only wrote or helped writing a small fraction of that large number. Did I at least review them ? No, I only reviewed maybe two hundred of them (and believe me, that is a large fraction for the field's standards!). Hell, did I read them all at least ? No, I cannot even say I read all of them; perhaps I read a third. If this coming clean with my true contribution to papers I signed shocks you, please consider: I did not ask to sign those papers -it is automatic!

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