Thursday, December 17, 2015

Now Who Wrote That?

It is easy to see what Einstein wrote. His name was on the paper and the only name. Back some 50 years or so when tenure came up one looked at a pile of publications of the faculty member and that had 40-50 papers with their name on them, and only their name.

Now we have the "everyone is a winner" game where there are dozens if not thousands of names. Now really, at most maybe 2 or 3 people wrote the paper. Thousands is nonsense.

In PLOS they state:

...we still don’t have solid norms for the process of deciding authorship, and it’s pretty much team-dependent. Decision structure problems arise “because one or more of the authors, usually the most senior one, assumes tacit agreement and consensus when there is none and then decides on co-authoring with little or no discussion” – as well as suppression of dissent, groupthink, squeaky wheels, and what they call “the jackass factor”. Power dynamics are central, and until we understand and tackle that, some people will continue to “exploit their friends and also those who are in less powerful positions than themselves”. Authorship practice remains astonishingly murky. All science’s incentive problems converge in it and feed from it. It deserves more care.

Well is the process murky because of what? One could argue that it is the process of Government funding that drives this chaos.

Now in BioMedCentral they articulate a "new" way to attribute contribution. Specifically:

Today in GigaScience we launch a project to spearhead this through our Author Contributorship Badges. The badges are based on a taxonomy around contributorship developed by  the Wellcome Trust, MIT, Digital Science, and others  in partnership with CASRAI (Consortia Advancing Standards in Research Administration), National Information Standards Organization (NISO), and the research community...These contributorship badges, in conjunction with other badges around open practices, put credit back into the hands of researchers and offer funders and universities alternative data to obscure author lists and Impact Factors.

 I really have difficulty with this process. There is a "badge" movement afoot, I think kind of like Boy Scout Merit Badges but not as good. This "badge" movement will add more contention and confusion. Again, back to Albert, how would that work again?