Historically, authorship of a journal article referred to those who contributed to the writing of the document. More recently (and especially in the sciences because of the nature of the subject) authorship attribution is extended to a larger number of people who have contributed to the research behind the article. Hyperauthorship refers to articles with more than 50 authors. This 2015 physics paper lists over 5,000 authors.
It may be that there are over 50 people making a legitimate contribution to a paper, but in the context of citation metrics where researchers’ success is measured by the number of times a publication in their name has been cited, it is easy to see the potential for gaming the system.
This reminded me of Goodhart’s law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”
Contributorship and attributions models
Project CRediT arose from a workshop involving stakeholders interested in exploring contributorship and attribution models, and a working group developed a controlled vocabulary of roles that could be used to describe typical research “contributions” – here is the draft taxonomy.
- Hyperauthorship: A postmodern perversion or evidence of a structural shift in scholarly communication practices? by Blaise Cronin (2001) (subscription access required)
- The case for Open Research: the authorship problem by Danny Kingsley (2016)
- Badges to Acknowledge Open Practices: A Simple, Low-Cost, Effective Method for Increasing Transparency by Kidwell et al (2016)