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Does it matter how many authors?

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Cheyf

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just curious what people's opinions are on being an author of a paper with only 3 people on it vs 5 or 6. Of course first author is the best spot to be in.
 

ProfMD

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The fewer the better for most stuff a med student or resident will be involved in - 5 or 6 isn't bad. Sometimes you see small retrospective reviews or case reports with a dozen authors and it is clear they are loading the boat. On the other hand, big RCTs or big basic science papers can have dozens of authors and still be perfectly legit.
 
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SurfingDoctor

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    Personally, the less authors there are on a publication the better. That way you know (or at least reasonably assume) that the authors on the publication actually contributed significant work to the paper, and are not just gift authorships.

    Incidentally, the number of authors per publication have gone up dramatically over time. For instance, a paper about purification of Insulin from 1923 had 2 authors (http://www.jbc.org/content/57/3/709, 1 of which was the later Nobel prize winner for discovery). Nowadays, you could only imagine how many people would be on that paper. There are lots of reasons for this, but a primary contributor is that only significant contributors were attached to publications and the rest were left for acknowledgements, where as nowadays, almost any contribution, no matter how small, are included as authors. Thus, as mentioned in my first statement, the less authors, the more the individual contribution.
     

    Goro

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    First, second or submitting are the ones that count for career advancement.

    But really, any authorship if good. I have a PhD and it's hard enough for me to get my papers into print!


    just curious what people's opinions are on being an author of a paper with only 3 people on it vs 5 or 6. Of course first author is the best spot to be in.
     
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    Cheyf

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    The fewer the better for most stuff a med student or resident will be involved in - 5 or 6 isn't bad. Sometimes you see small retrospective reviews or case reports with a dozen authors and it is clear they are loading the boat. On the other hand, big RCTs or big basic science papers can have dozens of authors and still be perfectly legit.

    Thanks for all the replies. I was just curious, working on several case reports and retrospective chart reviews, seems we will have ~3-4 authors per paper, but just doing literature searches I see papers with lots of authors and was just wondering what other peoples' opinions are about those.
     

    Cheyf

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    Can someone help define some terms? What's the difference between co-authors vs first authors? Can there be multiple first authors or is it when there are two first authors they become co-authors? I'm really confused about this terminology, thanks!
     

    Señor Científico

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    Can someone help define some terms? What's the difference between co-authors vs first authors? Can there be multiple first authors or is it when there are two first authors they become co-authors? I'm really confused about this terminology, thanks!

    First author is the first author listed, normally the individual who wrote the majority of the publication and conducted most of the work.

    A co-author is one of any authors listed on the publication.

    Sometimes during the course of a collaborative work, particularly in the case of large projects, two or more individuals have contributed equally to the work and writing of the publication such that not one individual is the first author but rather there are two (or however many are agreed upon). If this is the case their names will normally be listed as having "equally contributed to this work" or as *co-first authors*. This helps recognize the individuals that contributed most to the work, versus the additional co-authors who contributed in varying degrees.
     
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