Co-author vineyards, part I

Some of the authors of a recent LHC Higgs' boson paper. I stress PART of the author list...

Some of the authors of a recent LHC Higgs’ boson paper. I stress PART of the author list…

By Jonas Waldenström

Science is done in teams these days. The success of the lonely genius is less than the collected wits of a team of dedicated, but more mundane scientists. I was about to write ‘the more the merrier’, but success is likely more of an asymptotic curve, or a quadratic function, than a linear regression. Single-authored papers are rare, at least in my disease biology corner of academia. Therefore, with time, your crew of past and present co-authors will grow into an entangled web. Admittedly, the size of the party can touch upon the hilarious – for instance the human genome paper had >2,900 authors, and the recent Higg’s Boson paper a staggering 3,171 authors.

So who do we write papers with? We like to think it is because of academic brilliance (your own, and that of your co-authors), but in reality it is a combination of things, including chance, geography, habit, and perhaps most importantly because you like your friends. Regrettably, at a structural level, it may also depend on your gender.

I would like to introduce another criterion: co-author vineyards! Akin to ‘dance your PhD‘ we should ask whether or not we could ‘drink our research paper‘!

My first (and so far only) example is Vladimir Grosbois from CIRAD, Montpellier, France. Not only is he a great colleague and friend, his surname is also (him unknowingly) part of the brand of a very nice French wine: Famille Amirault Grosbois, Les Caillotes, 2012. I drank this Cabernet franc wine last weekend, and I really recommend it. A structured and elegant red wine, which according to the professionals “is a young wine with tones of black currants, plums, violets, mint and fresh herbs.” In Sweden you can buy it for 99 kr in well-stocked Systembolaget stores.

As Dr Grosbois (the researcher) is an epidemiologist, expert in capture-mark-recapture analyses, I think I need to drink-and-redrink this wine too! And I need to find out whether my other co-authors are drinkable. Or, if not, approaching new research collaborators based on their vineyard surnames! And in all fairness, I am willing to extend this to beer, whiskey and other beverages too!



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