Thousands of scientists publish a paper every five days
Authorship is the coin of scholarship — and some researchers are minting a lot. We searched Scopus for authors who had published more than 72 papers (the equivalent of one paper every 5 days) in any one calendar year between 2000 and 2016, a figure that many would consider implausibly prolific1. We found more than 9,000 individuals, and made every effort to count only ‘full papers’ — articles, conference papers, substantive comments and reviews — not editorials, letters to the editor and the like. We hoped that this could be a useful exercise in understanding what scientific authorship means.
We must be clear: we have no evidence that these authors are doing anything inappropriate. Some scientists who are members of large consortia could meet the criteria for authorship on a very high volume of papers. Our findings suggest that some fields or research teams have operationalized their own definitions of what authorship means.
The vast majority of hyperprolific authors (7,888 author records, 86%) published in physics. In high-energy and particle physics, projects are done by large international teams that can have upwards of 1,000 members. All participants are listed as authors as a mark of membership of the team, not for writing or revising the papers. We therefore excluded authors in physics.