Is Group Authorship a Better Way of Recognising Team-based Research?

Is Group Authorship a Better Way of Recognising Team-based Research? 1024 576 Open and Universal Science (OPUS) Project

Contemplating the hurdles and advantages of releasing research under a collective identity, Robert Thibault contends that while group authorship lacks robust support currently, it could serve as a pivotal tool in reshaping the incentives and acknowledgment system within scholarly communication.

Picture a workplace where every employee leads their own project, with occasional assistance from colleagues. Employment survival hinges solely on individual project outcomes. This scenario mirrors academia in many respects.

Efforts to enhance academic research often stress the importance of academic credit, incentives, and authorship. Discussions revolve around clearly attributing contributions in published studies, defining authorship criteria, and redefining authorship concepts. Some forward-thinking journals now mandate detailed Contributor Roles Taxonomy (CRediT) statements to delineate each author’s role.

Despite these advancements, the convention of referring to academic works by the last name of the first author persists. Even co-authors often refer to their collaborative works in this manner. It’s akin to a football player from the Argentinian national team saying “Messi’s team” won, disregarding their own contribution.

While CRediT statements function like team rosters, they often appear as an afterthought in manuscripts. To cultivate a more dynamic academic culture that champions openness, rigor, and efficiency, it’s imperative to transcend mere acknowledgment of individual contributions and prioritize collective achievements. In essence, what’s needed are teams.

In pursuit of aligning research practices with a vision for a more robust academic ecosystem, our team at the University of Bristol embarked on a series of projects utilizing a group identity (e.g., here, here, and here).

Here’s what they discovered:

What worked well?

  1. Promotion of task specialization: Group authorship facilitated the involvement of specialists in specific tasks without burdening them with unrelated responsibilities. For instance, we engaged a statistician for data analysis without involving them in the writing process.
  2. Inclusion of smaller contributions: Individuals who made valuable but non-authorship-worthy contributions were acknowledged in the CRediT statement, fostering inclusivity.
  3. Smooth project transfer: Transitioning projects between team members, such as when a PhD student moved to another research group, was seamless, avoiding authorship disputes and project stagnation.

Challenges encountered:

  1. Lack of infrastructure for group publishing: Platforms like medRxiv and conference abstract submissions often required an individual guarantor, complicating efforts to publish under a group name.
  2. Non-standard authorship handling: Authorship databases inconsistently indexed group-authored publications, leading to discrepancies in attribution.
  3. Complexity in acknowledging external collaborators: Adding “and Collaborators” to our group name to acknowledge external contributors sometimes led to requests to revert to traditional authorship practices.

Despite encountering editorial frustrations, our experiment in group authorship may inspire others to explore innovative changes in academic research practices. While not every attempt at innovation will yield immediate results, it’s essential to pilot and trial various workflows to advance the academic ecosystem in alignment with our values.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Impact of Social Science blog or the London School of Economics and Political Science. Please refer to their comments policy for any concerns regarding commenting below.

Original post via LSE (Robert Thibault)

Photo via WeWork

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