The Effects of Listing Authors in Alphabetical Order: A Survey of the Empirical Evidence
24 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2016 Last revised: 24 Jan 2017
Date Written: July 19, 2016
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 a norm of listing authors in alphabetical order. It has been argued that (i) this alphabetical norm gives an unfair advantage to researchers with last names starting with a letter early in the alphabet and that (ii) researchers are aware of this ‘alphabetical discrimination’ and react strategically to it, for example through avoiding collaborations with multiple others. This article surveys the empirical literature on these two related topics. Overall, there is 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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