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Discussion: Interdisciplinarity and the number of authors

In relation to our previous post, we have examined in detail the number of authors per paper in GEC. Although there is a significant increase in multi-authored papers over the years, we found it surprising that an interdisciplinary journal would have so many single author papers. This assumption was based on our interpretation of the term ‘interdisciplinary’ in which we assumed such work is a product of collaboration between experts from different disciplines. The adjective ‘interdisciplinary’ is usually used to describe research where two or more disciplines collaborate to address a particular problem. According to various theorists, such as Joe Moran (2008) and Julie Thompson Klein (1990, 2010), the notion usually involves degrees of collaboration, cooperation, integration, boundary crossing etc. Thus, from a theoretical perspective, one would expect such research to involve multiple researchers. However, as we can see from the figures below, much of the early papers in GEC have been attributed to a single author, especially in the early years. Continue Reading

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Increase of multi-authored papers!

Last week, Akira has done a little analysis on the number of authors per paper in the journals included in our corpus and discovered that in certain journals the number of multi-authored papers increased over time, but also that the number of authors per multi-authored paper has increased as well.
The journals Akira analysed were provided by our partners, Elsevier publishers, and include the following journals: Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment (AEE), Biosystems (B), Computers, Environment and Urban Systems (CEUS), Environmental Pollution (EP), Global Environmental Change (GEC), Journal of Rural Studies (JRS), Advances in Water Resources (AWR), Journal of Strategic Information Systems (JSIS), Plant Science (PS), Resource and Energy Economics (REE), and Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment (TRTE).

NumberAuthors

ProportionAuthors

The results of the analysis show that AEE, EP, AWR, and PS journals show a noticeable increase in the number of papers with 5 or more authors over a period of 10 years. At the same time, a drop in the number of single-authored papers can also be noticed.
This applies to both the journals labelled as mono-disciplinary (MD), i.e. Advances in Water Resources (AWR) and Plant Science, and interdisciplinary (ID) journals, such as Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment (AEE) and Environmental Pollution (EP).
One possible explanation for this tendency is that the research teams have grown in the number of people involved in the research over the decade. Alternatively, it may also imply a greater cooperation between different research teams.
If you have any thoughts or insight why this may be so, please leave us a comment below.