One such paper, in physics, is snappily titled “Charged-particle multiplicities in pp interactions at sqrt(s) = 900 Gev measured with the ATLAS detector at the LHC”. It has clearly made a significant contribution to scholarship, based on ground breaking research at the Large Hadron Collider, and that is reflected in its high number of citations. But the problem arises from the fact it has 3,222 authors (another paper from the LHC published this year hit 5,154 authors, meaning that only nine pages of the 33-page paper were actually concerned with the science, the rest dedicated to a list of authors).
A similarly unusual paper, this time from biology, appeared this year in the journal G3 Genes, Genomes, Genetics and examined the genomics of the fruit fly.
“Drosophila Muller F Elements Maintain a Distinct Set of Genomic Properties Over 40 Million Years of Evolution” has a more modest 1,014 authors, but it includes 900 undergraduates who helped edit draft genome sequences as part of a training exercise.
In the ensuing debate about how to properly credit academic research, neuroethologist Zen Faulkes, from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, wrote on his blog, Neurodojo: “I was curious what you had to have done to be listed as an author. With that many, it seemed like the criterial of authorship might have been, ‘Have you ever seen a fruit fly?’… Papers like this render the concept of authorship of a scientific paper meaningless.”