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Complexity of multidisciplinary norms in collaborative teams; epistemic diversity in authorship distribution ethics

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 — Poster Session I

12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
FAES Terrace


  • EM Smith
  • B Williams-Jones
  • Z Master
  • V Larivière
  • CR Sugimoto
  • A Paul-Hus
  • M Shi
  • DB Resnik


In the contemporary system of science, authorship is a proxy for productivity. Consequently, it becomes an important factor in decisions regarding funding, job advancement, salary, and prizes. For individual researchers, authorship represents recognition, credibility and opportunities for further research in an already competitive research environment. Since norms regarding authorship attribution and order are based on disciplinary culture, multidisciplinary teams may see increased normative diversity and even conflicting norms. Given this context, we hypothesize that authorship disagreements are more prevalent in multidisciplinary collaborative teams when compared to single-discipline teams. Using the web of science, we created a sample of over 100,000 individual researchers that published in collaborative teams between 2011 and 2015. A survey on ethics of authorship distribution was answered by 6,697 respondents. We performed a descriptive analysis and multivariate logistic regression with pertinent variables (e.g. gender, rank, discipline and multidisciplinary level). Results suggest that respondents were more likely to face disagreements regarding attribution (46.6%) than ordering (37.9%). After controlling for independent factors, we found that researchers in multidisciplinary teams were less likely than disciplinary researchers to face authorship disagreements. Conversely, researchers in the medical sciences were more likely to face authorship disagreements and observe misbehaviors (e.g. sabotage, fraud, hostility) as a results of authorship disputes than in other disciplines. Such results may suggest that “one size fits all” guidelines promoted by biomedical disciplines may be ineffective in mitigating authorship disagreements. Contrary to our hypothesis, disciplinary diversity - as seen in multidisciplinary teams - seems to decrease authorship disputes. Although complete ethical relativism would most likely be detrimental to research integrity, acceptance of some normative diversity may help to resolve authorship disputes in research.

Category: Social and Behavioral Sciences