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Surge in multi-author papers driven by Cern findings

A sharp incline in the number of physics papers with more than 50 authors has been recorded by Thomson Reuters. The company has also tracked a steep increase in the number of papers with over 1,000 authors, a trend driven in part by all the research produced at Cern, the European particle physics centre near Geneva, over recent years.

From the late Nineties to the middle of the 2000s, the number of multi-author papers appeared stable. The number fell off slightly in 2006, but has since risen. Most recently, the number of papers with more than 50 authors has rocketed: in 2010 more than 1,000 papers passed this mark.

The two papers with the most authors in 2010 and 2011 both came from the ATLAS experiment at CERN and both carried more than 3,000 authors. It is expected that the number of multi-author CERN papers will continue to grow this year, after July’s announcement of evidence showing the existence of a particle with characteristics very much like the proposed Higgs boson.

The number of multi-author papers in biomedical research has also increased but not as sharply as in physics. The number of papers with more than 100 authors did not reach 50 until 2010, and in 2011 it was still only 51.

Thomson Reuters notes that in 1981 the highest number of authors on any one paper was 118.