What is the ideal number of co-authors in a single article?

Salomão Alencar de Farias, Editor-in-chief, professor at UFPE/PROPAD, Recife, PE, Brazil

Is there an acceptable or ideal number of co-authors per article? This question used to come to mind as the Editor in Chief of BAR when I received a submission with more than five authors. Alarm bells would set off and I would think to myself, is an article with five or more co-authors acceptable, or is it the result of pressure to publish in our academy? When authors submit an article to BAR, they must specify the contribution of each co-author and we only accept the maximum of five co-authors in our submissions. Each author has to make a substantial contribution to the conception and design of an article to be included as a co-author, and this includes the stages of data collection, analysis, and interpretation. Given the current trend of productivism, we must be aware of the possible ethical issues associated with co-authorship. Co-authorship is the result of collaboration, and the number of people involved in a project can be large.

Is there an ideal or acceptable number of co-authors in a single paper? How can we fair and unbiased toward the co-authorship of an article based on suspicious unethical behavior due to the pressure to publish or perish or a corrupted system? Only co-authors know how they have contributed to finishing an article. Has the system really become corrupted or without limits to the point of monitoring co-authorship? Are individual researchers actually writing more articles every year or are there just more authors writing more collaboratively? (PLUME; WEIJEN, 2014). Of course, we do need to publish alone to show peers we have contributed to the development of knowledge on the field. At the same time, we do collaborate with colleagues in many different ways and advise master and Ph.D. students, which means we will probably be publishing with them.

The findings of Liu, Olivola and Kovács (2018) in the management field suggest that dual-authored papers will predominate in all the journals in the field they analyzed by 2020. This prediction has implications on how research output is evaluated. For instance, they argue whether funding bodies should value single-authored papers even more when most research outputs are multi-authored. Scholars advising Ph.D. and master students are usually co-authors in articles resulting from the dissertation and thesis.

Collaboration between research groups or an article with many techniques that requires expertise in different fields can lead to co-authorship. Consequently, the recommendation is to judge papers according to content, not authorship. Pintér (2015) indicates that increasing cooperation within and between institutions is a positive trend when the goal is to improve the quality of publications. An increase in number of co-authors in published articles is a growing trend in our field.

According to Plume and Weijen (2014), “authors are using their authorship potential more wisely by becoming more collaborative in the way they work, which is driving an apparent inflation in each author’s productivity as well as author bylines”.

A study conducted by Liu, Olivola, and Kovács (2018) using data from Web of Science confirms that the average number of authors in published papers has steadily and continuously increased over the last four decades and compares this trend across subfields and journals. Comparing the “facts” and the “perceptions” of co-authorship, they suggest the increase in co-authorship in management reflects not only quality considerations and the need for collaborations, but also instrumental motivations (p. 18). Having up to three authors in a manuscript may not seem like a particularly unusual or large number (p. 22).

As we can see, there is a trend in co-authoring in our field for many reasons, such as co-authors can offer skills that a single author does not have, they can motivate each other to finish and publish research results, and that maybe it is easier to get published if one has well-known co-authors (LIU; OLIVOLA; KOVÁCS, 2018, p. 46).

To conclude, we include some information for our readers about our journal. We have been a member of COPE since 2013 and we are listed in various relevant databases, such as SciELO, EBSCO, DOAJ, ProQuest, Redalyc, and many others. We are waiting for the response to our request to join JCR. We have a score of 9.6 on MIAR. BAR has been published in English since its first issue. We started using ScholarOne in 2013. Finally, we have been using iThenticate since 2016.


LIU, C., OLIVOLA, C. Y., KOVÁCS, B. Coauthorship trends in the field of management: Facts and perceptions. Academy of Management Learning & Education, v. 16, n. 4, 2018. Research & Reviews. DOI: 10.5465/amle.2016.0080. Avaliable from: https://journals.aom.org/doi/abs/10.5465/amle.2016.0080

PLUME, A., WEIJEN, D. van. Publish or perish? The rise of the fractional author…Scholarly Communication. 2014. Avaliable from: https://www.researchtrends.com/issue-38-september-2014/publish-or-perish-the-rise-of-the-fractional-author/

PINTÉR, A. Changing authorship patterns and publishing habits in the European Journal of Pediatric Surgery: A 10-year analysis. European Journal of Pediatric Surgery, v. 25, n. 4, p. 353-358, 2015. ISSN: 1439-359X [reviewed 19 April 2018]. DOI: 10.1055/s-0034-1376395. Avaliable from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24918399

External links

Brazilian Administration Review – BAR: www.scielo.br/bar


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

FARIAS, S. A. What is the ideal number of co-authors in a single article? [online]. SciELO in Perspective: Humanities, 2018 [viewed ]. Available from: https://humanas.blog.scielo.org/en/2018/06/20/what-is-the-ideal-number-of-co-authors-in-a-single-article/


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