Number of Authors - AMA Manual of Style

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Number of Authors 

Number of Authors

Ethical and Legal Considerations

Annette Flanagin

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Number of Authors

The number of authors whose names appear in the byline of scientific papers increased steadily during the second half of the 20th century.25 This increase occurred as a result of specialization, multidisciplinary collaboration, and the advent of large multicenter studies. However, authorship inflation has diluted the meaning of authorship. For example, which authors in a byline that contains more than 100 names can state that they actually wrote the paper or that they participated sufficiently to take public responsibility for the work? In response to this problem, suggestions were made in the 1980s and 1990s to limit the number of authors listed in the byline and database citations.26,27 However, such limitations set arbitrary limits and may interfere with policies to encourage transparency of author contributions and thus are not justified. The US National Library of Medicine no longer limits the number of individual authors' names listed in an article’s citation in MEDLINE.28 For major articles, JAMA does not set limits on the number of authors that can be listed, as long as each author meets the journal’s criteria for authorship and each author completes an authorship form indicating specific contributions. JAMA does limit the number of authors for an editorial or a commentary, and some Archives Journals continue to request justification or explanation for long lists of authors. For practical reasons (eg, space available on the first page of a print article), the names of all authors in an article with a large number of authors may be listed at the end of the article or elsewhere within an article instead of in the byline at the beginning of the article (see 5.1.7, Group and Collaborative Authorship). For online versions, all such lists are linked from the author byline.

Also for practical reasons, many journals limit the number of authors listed in reference list citations (see 3.7, References, Authors, and 5.1.7, Group and Collaborative Authorship). However, the online versions of many journal articles contain reference lists with links to original articles and to MEDLINE records in PubMed, both of which list all authors for articles published in 2000 or later.

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