- A paper on fruit fly genomics boasting more than 1,000 authors
- A 2016 paper in Autophagy with close to 2,500 authors (including 38 Wangs)
- A 2012 paper announcing the observation of the Higgs particle at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) with 2,924 authors (the standard practice when citing such a paper is to cite the ATLAS Collaboration as the author – unlucky for Mr G. Aad of Aix-Marseille University, who would otherwise have been first in the list);
- A subsequent 2015 paper from Cern involving both research teams for the first time, resulting in 5,154 authors (the first nine pages contain substantive discussion of the findings; the following 24 are dedicated to listing the authors and their affiliations).
Choosing your co-authors is not dissimilar to choosing a life partner (except you can always change your partner, but once your names are together on a paper, there’s no taking it back). Generally, academics team up with close colleagues or others from their field, but the literature also evidences some unexpected collaborations. David Manuwal, an emeritus professor at the University of Washington, managed to get his wife, daughter and son involved in a paper, while American physicist Jack Hetherington famously added his cat as a collaborator. Four (unrelated) Goodmans collaborated to produce a joke paperentitled “A few Goodmen: surname-sharing economist coauthors” and a whopping 284 authors sharing the name “Steve” contributed to a paperentitled “The morphology of Steve”. The paper was a by-product of the National Center for Science Education’s Project Steve, a comic riposte to creationist groups that had been assembling lists of “scientists who doubt Darwinism” to cast doubt on the theory of natural selection. While 300 authors may seem unmanageable, even for a spoof study, the number of individuals supposedly contributing to academic papers is increasing exponentially. In 1963, Derek de Solla-Price predicted that by 1980 the single-author paper would become extinct. We are now well into the noughties and single-author articles persist, but we have witnessed unfettered growth in author numbers and the emergence of the era of hyperauthorship. While anywhere between two and 10 authors is common, some papers take collaboration much further. Some examples: