To the Editor:
The recent editorial on authorship and publication matters1 among various problems of authorship addresses the question of escalating author counts in academic journals. The editorial indicates that between 1970 and 2010, the number of articles with 6 to 10 authors increased more than tenfold, and that multiauthorship (more than 10 authors) is now common, especially in major medical journals.2 This phenomenon may reflect author inflation. I wondered whether the escalating author count is also common among anesthesia publications.
The recently published article identified the most influential original clinical articles that fomented important developments in anesthesiology over the past 50 yr.3 Forty-five such studies (introducing a new drug or a new technique) were identified; 21 of them were published in 1965 to 1984, the other 24 during 1985 to 2007. Table 1 compares the author counts of these two groups and shows that the articles published two decades later reflect some increase in the number of authors per article, from 3.6 to 5.1. The change was especially noticeable for the number of articles with two authors (five 1965 to 1984 articles vs. one 1985 to 2007 article) and five authors (nil 1965 to 1984 articles vs. nine 1985 to 2007 articles). However, significant multiauthorship was not observed, with the top count not exceeding 11 authors. In addition, the rise in the average number of authors per article was 4.5-fold less than that reported for three major general medical journals.4
Multiathorship, whether it is attributable to collaboration or not, should not be considered as a sign of success. Each of the above-mentioned 45 articles represents a major success confirmed by decades of clinical practice. The success was achieved by a relatively small group of authors, both in 1965 to 1984 and 1985 to 2007.
The author declares no competing interests.