The Effects of Listing Authors in Alphabetical Order: A Review of the Empirical Evidence
Research Evaluation, 27(3), 238–245
19 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2016 Last revised: 24 Jun 2020
Date Written: April 3, 2018
Each time researchers jointly write an article, a decision must be made about the order in which the authors are listed. There are two main norms for doing so. The vast majority of scientific disciplines use a contribution-based norm, according to which authors who contributed the most are listed first. Very few disciplines, most notably economics, instead resort primarily to the norm of listing authors in alphabetical order. It has been argued that (1) this alphabetical norm gives an unfair advantage to researchers with last name initials early in the alphabet and that (2) researchers are aware of this ‘alphabetical discrimination’ and react strategically to it, for example by avoiding collaborations with multiple authors. This article reviews the empirical literature and finds convincing evidence that alphabetical discrimination exists and that researchers react to it.
Keywords: Alphabetical discrimination, lexicographic order, contribution-based order, scientific publishing
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