Autistic Songs

Alan Griswold


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Authorship Litany

Here is the list of co-authors from a paper recently published in a prestigious autism research journal: A. Mulligan, R. J. L. Anney, M. OíRegan, W. Chen, L. Butler, M. Fitzgerald, J. Buitelaar, H. Steinhausen, A. Rothenberger, R. Minderaa, J. Nijmeijer, P. J. Hoekstra, R. D. Oades, H. Roeyers, C. Buschgens, H. Christiansen, B. Franke, I. Gabriels, C. Hartman, J. Kuntsi, R. Marco, S. Meidad, U. Mueller, L. Psychogiou, N. Rommelse, M. Thompson, H. Uebel, T. Banaschewski, R. Ebstein, J. Eisenberg, I. Manor, A. Miranda, F. Mulas, J. Sergeant, E. Sonuga-Barke, P. Asherson, S. V. Faraone, M. Gill.

Now you might be thinking I have exaggerated that list, or at the very least have cherry picked the most egregious example of piled-on authorship I could find. But rest assured, the above example is actually quite tame—there are many other instances just like it, and some much worse. The journal Nature, for instance, has made a regular habit in recent years of publishing autism research papers sporting authorship lists running into the several score—even into the hundreds. And this does not count the considerable acknowledgements sections, raising the question of how much contribution actually merits an acknowledgement for such a paper, seeing as how it could not garner a spot on the enormous front page list.

As an outsider, I find myself perplexed by one particular aspect of this practice. In the reckoning of official publishing credit—the kind that can be cashed in for tenure, grants, editorial board appointments, offices with a nice view, and so forth (what would appear to be the most challenging goals in the field of autism research)—does an author get one full credit for having his or her name attached to such a copious list, or does the publishing credit get divided evenly throughout all the listís members? Because if the latter, I am having a hard time understanding how 1/38th of a publishing credit can go very far. Speaking strictly for myself, if I found I had to participate in thirty-eight such enterprises to earn one full credit, I might find it easier just to do some original work and write it up on my own.

Copyright © 2011 by Alan Griswold
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