Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Science Studies

Phoenix - Authorship revised

Running: 2019 – 2022

Individual project A: Theory and practice of scientific authorship (DZHW Berlin – Research System and Science Dynamics)

Lead Researcher: Dr. Cornelia Schendzielorz. Researcher: Dr. Felicitas Heßelmann

Individual project B: Inflationäre Autorschaft (Temir - Text Mining and Retrieval Group, Universität Leipzig)

Lead Researcher: Prof. Dr. Martin Potthast

Individual project C: Stilistische Spuren von Autorschaft (Webis - Web Technology & Information Systems Group, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar)

Lead Researcher: Prof. Dr. Benno Stein


The project investigates the theory and practice of scientific authorship in the 21st century. Beliefs about authorship are currently subject to a profound change, especially with regard to changed research constellations and collaborative processes in science which shape the conditions of knowledge production. This change can be seen, for example, in the cross-disciplinary increase of co-authorship and mass collaborations when, in physics (for instance of gravitational wave) more than 1000 people are listed as authors in one article. Together with the increasing differentiation of the division of labour in material- and technology-intensive research fields such as life sciences, this is prompting a debate on how the various activities of those involved can be adequately acknowledged in the publications.

In addition to publishing authorship policies, journals, publishers and publication platforms are also testing contribution classifications, which are intended to identify specific contributions to a paper or operate by mentioning names in the acknowledgements. In the course of a progressively differentiated division of labour, the act of writing is sometimes not only divided very differently among co-authors, but in some research fields also delegated to professionalized "scientific writers", who are usually not named as authors. The latter is diametrically opposed to the classical concept of the unity of author and text. These findings indicate that the importance attached to writing varies drastically between disciplines. They also raise questions about the handling of so-called "ghost authors", the partially practiced "guest-" and "gift-authorships" or "honorary authorship".

The aim of the project is to contribute to the empirical research of authorship. Quantitative and qualitative empirical data will be used to investigate how the changed and discipline-specific conditions for the production of scientific knowledge are reflected in authorship: What significance is assigned to authorship in each case? How is authorship negotiated? And what conflicts may be associated with it?

The investigation is complemented by algorithmic authorship analyses by our partners in Weimar (Webis) and Leipzig (Temir). These techniques make it possible to capture writing styles and inflationary authorship by means of author profiling and analysis of text reuses.