He compares the number of authors per paper in 8 major journals in 1965 and 2011. The number of single authors has plummeted while the number of papers with 4+ authors has dramatically increased.
In contrast, the number of authors of patent applications has remained steady.
Wyatt argues that this reflects a decrease in creativity. This is all caused by the pressure for everyone to have large numbers of publications and citations to survive in science.
He asserts that many authors have not made significant scientific contributions to a paper and so should only be in the acknowledgements section.
He sings the praises of single author papers, as I do.
Why has not the number of authors on patent applications increased?
If a listed inventor, or “innovator,” did not actually contribute to the invention, the issued patent will be void if such deception is ever discovered. The patents most easily challenged in court may well be those with extraordinary numbers of inventors.Overall I agree with Wyatt's concerns.
Some people are getting credit they don't deserve.
Multiple authors make it very hard to evaluate the quality and quantity of individuals contributions.
Too much time is being wasted producing papers as opposed to doing creative and productive science of lasting value.
The commentary brought a number of interesting responses. I particularly agreed with his response included the statement:
so much effort seems focused on writing papers just to secure funding or a job that many fundamental building blocks needed as tools to spur creativity in our young scientists are lost in the process.