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Research Quality, Fairness, and Authorship Order

Research output: Working paper/Preprint Working paperResearch

The order in which authors are listed on an academic paper determines the credit that each receives on a co-authored publication, influencing hiring, tenure and promotions. Two of the prevalent author ordering schemes are alphabetical, which involves listing authors in lexicographical order of their last names, implying that all contributed equally, and by contribution, where authors are listed in decreasing order of their contribution to the paper. We perform a game theoretic analysis of the impact of author ordering schemes, uncovering two considerable advantages of alphabetical ordering: it leads to improved research quality, and it is the more fair of the two approaches in the worst case. On the other hand, contribution-based ordering results in a denser collaboration network and a greater number of publications than is achieved using alphabetical author ordering. Furthermore, authors can overcome some of the limitations of contribution-based ordering by performing rotations, alternating who is the first author on joint papers. This often allows authors to achieve optimal research quality and perfect fairness under any given contribution scheme; however, this is obtained at the expense of truthfulness.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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