Abstract

Results are reported of what is believed to be the first survey of the quantitative contributions Earth scientists make to their research publications. Based on a return of 26 (from 45; 254 total documents), two key patterns are observed. For most articles, there is a steady decrease in the roles of the first through fifth authors. The former fall from 65 ± 14% for two-author outputs, to 52 ± 9% for five, to 46 ± 10% for ten; fifth authors are perceived as having contributed 5–6%. The term ‘balanced’ is used to describe such contributor lists. The second pattern, which is labelled ‘imbalanced’, is recognized with teams of five or more and involves the first author shouldering a disproportionately large amount of the work; consequently, the inputs of the third and lesser authors range from small to negligible (5–1%). In some cases, it is observed in a few of a researcher’s publications (≤3); in others, it is more pervasive. There are two basic explanations: estimation problems and excessive numbers of authors, which can be split into two and three subcategories, respectively. The key features of the survey data are dwelt upon. The work concludes with an exploration of a proposed H-Index-type metric that is weighted by the contribution fractions a researcher makes to their publications. This, I contend, would be more reflective of their impact.

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