Faculty of 1000

Post-publication peer review

It had to be you

Posted by rpg on 7 January, 2010

One of the biggest problems facing authors of scientific papers is the ordering of the author list. In my own field, the person who did the most work (or who had the bright idea, &c.) would tend to go first, and the person running the lab in the prestigious last author position. (My own experience is one of being completely shafted—but I’ll save that story for another day.) Other disciplines do things differently, ranging from completely random to strictly alphabetical.

A statistician (or possibly biologist) friend of mine who writes at Nature Network yesterday published a paper entitled Do not log-transform count data in Nature Precedings. He and his coauthor have come up with a novel way of assigning authorship, of which I heartily approve:

The order of the authors was determined by the result of the South Africa – England cricket ODI on the 27th September 2009, which England won by 22 runs.

How do you solve this problem? I might offer a small prize for the most innovative method, provided it has actually been used for a published paper.

O’Hara, Robert and Kotze, Johan. Do not log-transform count data. <http://hdl.handle.net/10101/npre.2010.4136.1> Available from Nature Precedings (2010).

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14 Responses to “It had to be you”

  1. Bob O'H said

    The odd thing is, we were perfectly sober when we came up with this plan.

  2. rpg said

    Unbelievable. What were the terms between you and the good Dr Kotze then? Is he SAian?

  3. Johan Kotze said

    Yip, the ‘good/bad/ugly’ Dr Kotze is South African… therefore the bet!

  4. Johan Kotze said

    Nope, not at all. Lost it almost the same way as we did the first test. But I must admit, this is how test cricket should be!

  5. DaWintle said

    I’m thinking that one method might be to send the (almost-finished) manuscript to all of the co-authors, and rank them based on how quickly they respond with comments. The sender is by default either first or last author, but I have no sensible method for determining this.

    Either that, or cage-match all-in fighting. One or the other.

    • rpg said

      Either that, or cage-match all-in fighting. One or the other.

      A PhD student in Sydney fences. He was quite keen to see academic disputes settled at the tip of a foil. Probably less harmful overall than the current system.

      (Procedural note: I have to approve the first comment from any one name/email combo but subsequent comments should get through straightaway.)

      • DaWintle said

        Ta. Does this mean if I change from “DaWintle” to something less stupid, you’ll have to approve me again? 😉

        • rpg said

          Ta. Does this mean if I change from “DaWintle” to something less stupid, you’ll have to approve me again?

          Yup! 😀

  6. Mike said

    As a former colleague drinking buddy of these authors, I feel compelled to mention that if drinking had been involved, authorship would almost certainly have been decided by a bad pun-a-thon (early in the evening) or a dance-off (much, much later).

    • rpg said

      Hi Mike

      a dance-off would be … innovative. I’ve seen scientists dance, and it’s not pretty (there are exceptions, of course).

      • Bob O'H said

        Fear not. There are now local ordinances in the Helsinki area to prevent Johan and myself from dancing.

        Mike is prevented from dancing by an EU-wide regulation.

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