Increased rates of authorship in radiology publications: a bibliometric analysis of 142,576 articles published worldwide by radiologists between 1991 and 2012

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AJR Am J Roentgenol


OBJECTIVE; There is evidence in academic medicine that the number of authors per paper has increased over time. The goal of this study was to quantitatively analyze authorship trends in the field of radiology over 20 years. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A search of the National Library of Medicine MEDLINE database was conducted to identify articles published by radiology departments between 1991 and 2012. Country of origin, article study design, and journal impact factor were recorded. The increase in number of authors per paper was assessed by linear and nonlinear regression. Pearson correlation was used to assess the relation between journal impact factor and number of authors. RESULTS: A total of 142,576 articles and 699,257 authors were identified during the study period. The mean number of authors per paper displayed linear growth from 3.9 to 5.7 (p < 0.0001). The proportion of single authors declined from 11% in 1991 to 4.4% in 2012. The number of clinical trials increased in a linear pattern, review articles in an exponential pattern, and case reports in a logistic pattern (p < 0.0001 for each). Countries with the highest number of authors per paper were Japan, Italy, and Germany. The number of articles funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) displayed exponential growth and of non-NIH-funded articles displayed linear growth (p < 0.0001 for each). A negligible relation was observed between journal impact factor and number of authors (Pearson r = 0.1066). CONCLUSION: Radiology has had a steady increase in mean number of authors per paper since the early 1990s that has varied by study design. The increase is probably multi-factorial and includes components of author inflation and increasing complexity of research. Findings support the need for reemphasis of authorship criteria to preserve authorship value and accountability.

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