Is this really justified?
Have all of these people really made a substantial contribution to the paper?
Are they all willing to stake their scientific reputations on all of the results in the paper?
Many of these journals require a statement of the contributions of the different authors. But, most of the statements I read are quite generic.
I realise that some of these papers involve theory and experimental collaborations. Some report measurements using complementary probes (e.g., x-rays + neutrons + optical spectroscopy). However, for many of these papers I would have thought that the numbers would be:
1-2 people make the sample
2-3 make the measurements
1 is a friendly theorist who helps in the interpretation.
This adds up to 4-6 not 15!
Why should we care? Here are some possible concerns.
- Some junior people who do the bulk of the work are not getting due credit.
- There is a dilution of responsibility for the content of the paper.
- The long author list may be hoodwinking us into thinking that the paper reports a more substantial body of work than it does.
- There is a problem with joint theory-experiment papers.
Is this something we should care about?