Multiple authorship

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In the case of multiple authorship , several authors together are authors of a jointly written work. The authors are referred to as co-author , co-author , co-author or co-author .

The term co-author is used in particular in science , as scientific publications are often produced by several people. Formally and in terms of copyright, the authorship refers to the writing of the text. However, the extremely controversial practice has become established of naming persons as co-authors who have no involvement in the creation of the text itself, but only in carrying out the research work described . In practice, it is difficult to assess the actual individual writing share of a single co-author, which has already led to national and international science scandals in the past . It often happens that professors or heads of research groups and institutions claim co-authorship for the works of their staff and students even though they have not written any part of the publication. This goes so far that some of them even want to assert copyright claims on theses (see notoriety of property rights ).

historical development

As noted by Derek de Solla Price in 1963 , there has been a general increase in multiple authorship in scientific publications. While sole authorship was common in the past, there are now scientific articles with, in extreme cases, more than a thousand authors, especially in particle physics . However, many works by individual authors are also based directly or indirectly on the work of many contributors (see On the shoulders of giants and the Ortega hypothesis ). The proportional productivity per author remains roughly the same, since an author publishes more publications the more often he is involved as a co-author.

While multiple authorship in conventional publications is essentially characterized by the division of labor according to different tasks, texts in collaborative writing (for example in a wiki ) arise from the fact that several authors usually write with one another on a text with equal rights.

How to quote

If more than two authors are involved in a publication, sometimes only the first author is named in the citation , and the others are indicated with u. a. ("And others"; Latin et al. ) Abbreviated. This practice reinforces the belief that the first author contributed most of the work to the result. This is problematic in the case of scientific publications where it is common to list the authors in alphabetical order.

In some scientific (but not mathematical) subjects, alphabetical sorting is unusual; there is a consensus to name the group leader last. Frequently found with several first authors are footnotes with the note that the authors marked in this way contributed equally to the work. The choice of the contact person is accompanied by further weighting apart from the sequence, as this person comes to the fore in the scientific dialogue.


After § 8 of the German Copyright Act a multi-authorship of a is the work before then, when its shares "can be separately exploited" is not. Section 11 of the Austrian Copyright Act defines this similarly by speaking of an "inseparable unit" of a work. Art. 7 of the Swiss Copyrights Act , on the other hand, speaks of co-authorship if several authors have contributed to the work, but leaves everyone the right to use their contributions if they can be separated.

In Germany , Austria and Switzerland the co-authors jointly hold the copyright . The work may therefore only be used with the consent of all. In Germany and Switzerland, consent may not be refused "contrary to good faith" or in Austria without sufficient reason.

United States copyright law also recognizes multiple authorship under the name “joint work”. The co-authors jointly own the "copyright" here.

See also


  • Ronald Rousseau , Alesia Zuccala: A classification of author co-citations: definitions and search strategies. In: JASIST vol. 55. Issue 6, April 2004, pp. 513-529.
  • Derek de Solla Price : Multiple authorship. In: Science 212 . 1981, p. 986.
  • Jack Stillinger: Multiple Authorship and the Myth of Solitary Genius. Oxford University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-19506861-0 .
  • MA Harsanyi: Multiple authors, multiple problems - Bibliometrics and the study of scholarly collaboration: a literature review. In: LISR 15. 1993, pp. 325-354.

Web links


  1. Derek J. de Solla Price: Little Science, Big Science . Suhrkamp, ​​1974, p. 17 From Little Science to Big Science ( Memento of June 24, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) (annotated translation of the English original from 1963).
  2. Physics paper sets record with more than 5,000 authors
  3. § 8 UrhG-D, § 11 UrhG-Ö and Art. 7 URG