Hyperauthorship: the publishing challenges for ‘big team’ science

From Nature, 27 February 2023:

The existence of the Higgs boson was first posited in a trio of papers in 1964. Two of those were authored solely by UK theoretical physicist Peter Higgs and the other was co-authored by his US and Belgian counterparts Robert Brout and François Englert.

Nearly half a century later, the experimental confirmation that the Higgs field existed was published in a paper4 with 2,932 authors. Three years after that, a paper detailing a more accurate measurement of the mass of the Higgs boson set a new record for the highest number of authors on a single paper: 5,154.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic broke that record, with 15,025 co-authors on a research paper examining the effect of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination on post-surgical COVID-19 infections and mortality.

The term ‘hyperauthorship’ is credited to information scientist Blaise Cronin at Indiana University in Bloomington, who used it in a 2001 publication to describe papers with 100 or more authors. But with the rise of large international and multi-institutional scientific collaborations — such as the ATLAS consortium behind the discovery of the Higgs boson — papers with hundreds, even thousands, of authors are becoming more common. There are many legitimate reasons for this shift, but it is raising questions — and concerns — about the nature of authorship and the impact that hyperauthorship has on the metrics of scientific achievement. Read more.

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