Big astronomy and credit

In recent years, the number of astronomers/engineers working on individual projects has been increasing as things become more difficult and expensive to achieve. With large groups comes the thorny topic of assigning credit (or blame). Particle physicists are used to papers where the author list can go over several pages and astronomy is now starting to head that way. For instance, the first issue of Astrophysical Journal in 1895 saw 31 out of 32 papers with only one author. By 2000 only 15% of papers had a single author and 15% were written by six or more people.

Long lists of authors names are required to attribute credit to those who have put a lot of time and effort into a particular project. But, if you are a starting-out astronomer, having your name buried in amongst tens of others doesn't exactly help your reputation and a reputation is what is required if you want to get your next job. This is one of the topics discussed in a paper titled Large Surveys in Cosmology: The Changing Sociology

that can be found on the pre-print server astro-ph (via Astrophysics Jobs Rumor Mill). The paper arose from discussions amongst astronomers at the University of Cambridge and the experiences of the author in the 2dFGRS project. As well as attribution it talks about the role of PhD students and young Post-Docs in big projects and the use of email and the internet. An interesting read.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 03rd Jul 2006 (18:16 CEST) | Permalink
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