How do physicists and astronomers team up to write research papers?

Busy busy today so just time to reblog this, an interesting article about the irresistible rise of the multi-author paper. What fraction of the “authors” actually play any role at all in writing these papers? Am I the only one that thinks this has very profound implications for the way we interpret bibliometric analyses?


The way in which physicists and  astronomers team up to write technical papers has changed over the years, and not only is it interesting to look at this behavior for its own sake, but by analyzing the data it may be possible to better understand what role, if any, does the number of authors  have on the scientific impact of a paper. Likewise, such an analysis can allow physics and astronomy journals to make decisions about their publishing policies.

I was curious about the trends in the number of authors per refereed astronomy paper, so I set out to write an R script that would read in data from the NASA Astrophysics Data System, an online database of both refereed and non-refereed academic papers in astronomy and physics. The script counts the monthly number of refereed astronomy and physics papers between January 1967 and September 2013, as well as…

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9 Responses to “How do physicists and astronomers team up to write research papers?”

  1. plotting the median number of authors might be more informative if this is driven by a tail of large-N papers (SDSS, WMAP and 2dFGRS are the obvious ones for providing multi-author beneficiaries, see top-cited in Google Scholar).

  2. Also interesting: Is the fraction of single-author papers roughly the same, or is there a trend here as well? In other words, are collaborations just becoming bigger, or are single-author papers becoming rarer as well?

    • I see the original blog addresses this question: “In their article, those authors showed that the fraction of papers written by a single author decreased steadily in the same period by a factor of about 3.” So, yes, fewer single-author papers.

  3. John Peacock Says:

    So how long before blogs are written by teams?

  4. You may like to read my article on “Making your research paper discoverable: Title plays the winning trick” available at

    Best wishes,
    Dr. M.Jagadesh Kumar, FNAE, FNASc, FIETE
    NXP(Philips)Chair Professor
    Dept. of Electrical Engineering
    Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi 110016

  5. Thoughts on the 4500-author LIGO paper?

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