Authorship networks as an alternative to authorship lists

I am starting to think about different barriers to multidisciplinary research. One of the barriers is the traditional list of authors on journal research articles. The problem is that one has a linear list – and as a consequence the position on that list becomes hierarchical. Typically in our field, that means that being the first or final author on the list is over-valued, while other authorship locations are less valued. This then has an impact on jobs, promotions, etc.

Where research is genuinely multidisciplinary, this then becomes very problematic. Journals have tried to respond to this in various ways, including having joint first (or last) authorships and lists of author contributions (usually an afterthought at the end of the paper).

I propose here a radical alternative to an author list: an authorship network. This would replace the list of authors with a network (or graph) showing how the people have contributed to the work. Nodes on the graph could represent people, activities or grant codes. Edges could connect people to activities, people to grants (either as authors of the grant, or employed by the grant), people to each other (e.g. supervision relationships).

I have had a go at representing my most complex paper in this way. Here it is. Rectangular nodes are the authors. Rounded rectangles are the grants. Ovals are activities. Arrows between people link who is supervised by whom. Edges between people and grants represent grant authorship (blue) or employment (arrows). Edges from people to activities show who has done what, with thicker edges for the main contributors (i.e. Hiroki doing most of the modelling and Taku doing most of the experiments).

takahashi_et_alCompare the graph with the list of authors:

Hiroki Takahashi, Taku Oshima, Jon L. Hobman, Neil Doherty, Selina R. Clayton, Mudassar Iqbal, Philip J. Hill, Toru Tobe, Naotake Ogasawara, Shigehiko Kanaya, Dov J. Stekel.
I think the graph is far more informative. It is immediately clear that there are two main activities in experiments and modelling. It is clear that the BBSRC/JST is the central grant, while there is a contribution from the other BBSRC grant. Jon Hobman’s centrality to the research is also much clearer from the graphical view than appears from his position as third author on the list.
I’d appreciate some feedback and ideas.

 

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