Modi P, Hassan A, Teng CJ, Chitwood, WR Jr. How many cardiac surgeons does it take to write a research article? Seventy years of authorship proliferation and internationalization in the cardiothoracic surgical literature. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery 2008;136:4-6.
In a sample of 3669 articles published between 1936 and 2006, the mean number of authors per article increased in all three journals surveyed, and overall is now about six. Less than 5% of articles have just one or two authors, and 74% have six or more. Multinational articles made up 12%, having been 0% as recently as 1976. These trends are similar to those in plastic surgery and neurosurgery. In four prestigious American medical journals, mean number of authors increased from 4.5 in 1980 to 6.9 in 2000; in radiology it increased from 2.2 in 1966 to 4.4 in 1991. “Various support personnel,” comment the authors, “might now be awarded authorship, whereas once they might have been simply acknowledged [and] ‘guest’ or ‘gift’ authorship might be an important contributory factor. Authorship criteria must be respected to maintain ethical standards.
Thanks to Margaret Cooter