Number of authors and institutional collaboration in Spanish biomedical research articles. A longitudinal study of basic figures in the last 20 years.

The number of authors of scientific papers grows continuously. Whereas collaboration presents epistemic advantages and is encouraged by funding agencies, multiple authorship sometimes raises doubts on the attribution of scientific merit. Objectives and method: We’ve analyzed the number of authors in 169,740 Spanish biomedical research articles published in the last 20 years and indexed in the Web of Science. The resulting figures have been related with the number of both Spanish and foreign institutions participating in the papers. We offer the results in the context of the broad research areas (5) and the specific subject categories (78) of Biomedical research and compare them with other estimates of the same variables.
Average number of authors per paper follows the global tendency and grows by a 57.56 %, increasing from 4,51 authors per paper in 1990 to 7.11 in 2009. The increase was higher in Infectious diseases (66,07%) Neurosciences (61,29 %) and Biomedical research (69.53 %) fields. The share of solo author papers decreased from 3.59 to 2.08 per cent in the same period and similar differences were observed among subject categories and areas. There is a clear relationship between the number of participating institutions and the number of authors per paper and this relationship is reinforced when the collaboration comes from foreign research centers. In general, the number of authors in the Spanish biomedical research papers exceeds the figures resulting from other estimates.

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