Science Paper On Fruit Flies Has More Than 1,000 Authors

Michael Bastasch | Energy Editor

There may be more authors in a recently published paper on fruit flies than there were insects involved in the study. The study’s first three-and-a-half pages are dedicated to listing the more than 1,000 authors involved in the paper and their affiliations.

So how does a study get 1,014 authors? Nature News explains there were more than 900 graduate students helping scientists conduct research. Interestingly enough, lead author Sarah Elgin, a geneticist at Washington University in St. Louis, said all the authors listed contributed enough to the report to be considered a co-author.

“Putting together the efforts of many people allows you to do good projects,” Elgin said.

The paper, titled “Drosophila Muller F Elements Maintain a Distinct Set of Genomic Properties Over 40 Million Years of Evolution,” has gotten a lot of media attention because of its hundreds of authors, but not everyone is happy so many researchers are credited in the study.

Zen Faulkes, an invertebrate neuroethologist at the University of Texas-Pan American, argues having so many authors on one study makes “the concept of ‘authorship’ of a scientific paper meaningless.”

“This feels more like a participation award than authorship,” Faulkes writes in his blog. “A possible solution… is that we need to give up ‘authorship’ and focus on ‘credits’ that are clearer descriptions of the contribution individuals make.”

“Call the students ‘contributors’ rather than authors,” Faulkes argues. “Put it in a supplemental file.”

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