Thinking about... Working in large groups

Working in large groups

Working in large groups or as part of a consortium is growing more common. What sort of authorship challenges do these scenarios present and how can you prepare for working in one yourself?

 First of all, let’s identify what we mean by a large author group. Defining a large author group can be tricky as it varies so much between disciplines. Ask a particle physicist how many authors are listed on a typical paper in the field and it’s usually more than 50 names. A similar story is seen in genomics research. It could be that this type of research requires a collaborative approach - and therefore more authors - to create the volume of data, and the different subsets of expertise required to produce a paper for publication.

In the module Authorship and authors' responsibilities in Part 2 of the Scientific Writing and Publishing course, our editors offer some guidance on dealing with these situations.

Firstly, working as a large group doesn't affect any of the Principles of authorship, so these should always be kept in mind, as outlined by Alexia Zaromytidou, Chief Editor, Nature Cancer (formerly Chief Editor, Nature Cell Biology). This brings up our first point for discussion - on a paper with 1000 authors, who is liable when something goes wrong?

 In addition, Catherine Potenski offers some advice for the specific situation of Authorship in collaborative teams and consortia. One thing Catherine touches on is the benefits of knowing what each author's’ contribution to the research paper was, as it’s a factor often (partially) used to award promotion, tenure or grant funding to researchers.

What are your experiences of working in large groups or across disciplines? Have you got any tips or strategies for successful collaborations that you can share with other researchers? Please feel free to share your thoughts in our Facebook group.

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BL Large groups