Success breeds success: Authorship distribution in the red Journal, 1975-2011

Emma Holliday, Clifton David Fuller, Lynn D. Wilson, Charles R. Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Purpose: Publication analysis has value in evaluating the mechanics of academic efforts in specific scientific communities. The specific aim of this study was to evaluate whether established bibliometric patterns seen in other academic fields were likewise observed in radiation oncology publication parameters. Methods and Materials: We used a commercial bibliographic database to analyze all publications in Red Journal, or International Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics (IJROBP), the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO), and Radiology (Rad) between January 1, 1975 and May 18, 2011. Power-law (Lotka's law or 1/n2) conformance was assessed. Curve fit analysis was then performed. Results: In all 4 journals, a total of 219,476 authors were responsible for 62,232 articles. Of those, 79,810 authors published 13,772 articles in IJROBP, with 79,446/16,707 authors/articles in NEJM, 106,984/11,920 authors/articles in JCO and 90,325/19,745 authors/articles in Rad. The mean ± standard deviation of authors per publication was 5.74 ± 4.61 overall. There were 5.8 ± 3.53, 4.8 ± 5.7, 8.9 ± 3.53, and 4.6 ± 2.8 authors per article in IJROBP, NEJM, JCO, and Rad, respectively (P<.001). The number of authors publishing n articles was 1/n2.02 of those publishing 1 article in IJROBP, 1/n2.52 in NEJM, 1/n1.97 in JCO, and 1/n2.16 in Rad. Conclusions: Bibliometric analysis shows that authorship distributions in IJROBP approximate those of the scientific literature in comparable scientific journals. Our results suggest that the majority of publications in the field of radiation oncology are produced by a small but highly productive group of authors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-28
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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