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Biologist 1: How many physicists does it take to write a research paper?

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Biologist 2 (looks at the citation above): “all of them?”

I wrote about the challenges that biologists and computer scientists have in deciding who’s on first. But after finding some physics papers in PubMed by mistake, I’ve decided that it must be much harder for the physicists.

How do the physicists decide which author goes where?

Do they all have to write out their individual contributions?

Comments

  1. #1 Algerine
    August 8, 2007

    If the above cite is the norm, then they do it alphabetically.

  2. #2 Sandra Porter
    August 8, 2007

    This list is definitely alphabetical. I just don’t know if that’s the norm or an anomaly.

  3. #3 Chad Orzel
    August 8, 2007

    Alphabetical is more or less the norm for large collaborations, although the first author may sometimes be out of alphabetical order, and reflect who did the most work.

    Collaborations of that size are mostly restricted to high-energy physics. Those of us who do low-energy work write papers with single-digit numbers of authors, the same as everybody else.

  4. #4 Sandra Porter
    August 8, 2007

    Thanks Chad! It’s great to hear the story from an expert!

  5. #5 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    August 9, 2007

    Now think about the page of recognitions, if they list everyone involved in building the experiment (often a huge accelerator and correspondingly huge detector). :-P

  6. #6 G. Shelley
    August 9, 2007

    I suppose that in biology, a lot of the various sequencing projects, that are fat to big for any one lab, could have that sort of author list, though I don’t recall if they did

  7. #7 Farhat
    August 9, 2007

    That’s actually kind of a small number of authors for a typical High Energy Experimental paper. The largest number of authors ever on a single paper was 1681. Many typically range between 200-500 authors.

  8. #8 Barry
    August 9, 2007

    “Collaborations of that size are mostly restricted to high-energy physics. Those of us who do low-energy work write papers with single-digit numbers of authors, the same as everybody else.”

    Posted by: Chad Orzel

    So, if you get more physicists together, the energy goes up? Or do higher energy levels draw in more physicists?

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