1439. Too Many Cooks? The Proliferation of Authors in Neurosurgical Papers
Authors: Gary Robert Simonds, MD, FAANS; Chris Busch; brian saway (Black Mountain, NC)
A simple comment in grand rounds led to this brief analysis. The comment was that in days of old, neurosurgical papers featured only one or two authors but now they oft feature over a dozen. We sought to test this assertion and consider the possible factors behind such a trend if it does exist.
We evaluated the Journal of Neurosurgery and Neurosurgery for average number of authors per scientific paper each decade since the 1940’s. We ran a similar screen of JAMA and the NEJM for comparison.
The average number of authors per scientific paper in the Journal of Neurosurgery was as follows: 1940’s- 1.73; 1950’s – 1.84; 1960’s – 2.02; 1970’s- 2.38; 1980’s – 3.18; 1990’s – 4.24; 2000’s – 5.10; 2010 – 5.38; 2018 – 7.8.
Results for JAMA were as follows: 1950’s – 1.91; 1960’s – 2.07; 1970’s- 2.49; 1980’s – 3.21; 1990’s – 4.71; 2000’s – 7.41; 2010 – 10.15; 2018 – 12.90.
Neurosurgery and the NEJM followed similar patterns.
Over the decades, the number of articles per each issue in the JON increased, the number of articles per issue of JAMA decreased.
The average number of authors per scientific paper in our two most prominent professional journals has expanded by a factor of 6 since the original days of Neurosurgical publications. Reasons are certainly multifactorial and the trend is not against the grain of other major journals. Scientific studies may require far more “hands on deck” due to the level of their complexity and technological sophistication, for example. Nonetheless, the proliferation of authors suggests an inherent pressure on academic neurosurgeons, residents, and even medical students, to produce increasing numbers of publications. This may encourage a culture of quantity over quality in the process. The question is begged—should authorship be limited?