Authorship inflation in medical publications

Gaurie Tilak, Vinay Prasad, Anupam B. Jena

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The number of authors per manuscript in peer-reviewed medical journals has increased substantially in the last several decades. Several reasons have been offered to explain this authorship growth, including increased researcher collaboration, honorary authorship driven by increased pressures for funding and promotion, the belief that including senior authors will facilitate publication, and the growing complexity of medical research. It is unknown, however, whether authorship has grown over time due to growing complexity of published academic articles, in which case growth could be warranted, or whether it has grown due to pressures of funding and academic promotion, which have created "authorship inflation." To answer this question, we analyzed data on authorship count, study type, and size of study population for the first 50 original articles published in each decade during 1960-2010 in 3 major medical journals. Within each type of study we considered (eg, randomized trials, observational studies, etc), average authorship rose more than 3-fold during this period. Similar growth persisted after adjustment for changes in study population sizes over time. Our findings suggest that increasing research complexity is an inadequate explanation for authorship growth. Instead, growth in authorship appears inflationary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInquiry (United States)
StatePublished - 2015


  • Authorship criteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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