Author + information
- Robert Roberts, MD∗ ()
- International Society for Cardiovascular Translation Research, University of Arizona College of Medicine, Phoenix, Arizona
- ↵∗Address for correspondence:
Dr. Robert Roberts, 550 East Van Buren Street, Phoenix, Arizona 85004.
Globalization has been embraced as essential for the overall improvement of mankind. Discovery and innovation have also benefitted tremendously from the pooling of expertise and resources. An inevitable consequence of such collaborative research is publications with multiple authors from multiple countries. Despite the advantages and necessity of global collaborative research, academic institutions often look with scorn on multiauthored publications, particularly when their young investigators tout that most of their research efforts have been published as such. This occurs despite mentors encouraging investigators to collaborate not only in their own discipline, but also across disciplines. Is there something lost in translation, or is it simply that academic institutions do not want to change or adapt to the compelling forces of globalization? Do they appreciate that multiauthored research publications are a necessary consequence of global collaborative research? Worldwide collaborative research is essential to the advancement of science and the health and welfare of mankind. It is on the increase, it improves the quality of research, and it must come with the recognition of multiple authors.
Trend of Increasing Multiauthorships
In the 1970s, multiauthored publications with >100 authors were rare (1). In 2004, the first publication with 1,000 authors was published, and contemporary publications have up to 3,000 authors. In 2011, <20% of the publications in the sciences had single authors; >600 papers were published with >100 authors, 146 with >1,000 authors, and 44 publications had 3,000 authors (1). Today, about one-fifth of the 1 million scientific papers are coauthored by researchers collaborating with international partners (2).
International Multiauthored Clinical Trial
Jonathan Adams suggests there have been 3 stages: the individual, the institutional, and the national; we are currently entering the fourth stage: international (3). The international stage coincides with the global movement. The first era of globalization is said to have occurred in the 18th century, and the second came in the latter half of the 20th century. The later globalization epoch continues to expand and is an essential component of our daily lives. Evidence-based therapies became the standard, requiring drugs, devices, and biologics to be evaluated in randomized, placebo-controlled, multicentered clinical trials, and recruitment protocols were standardized across multiple countries. For example, the INTERHEART trial involved 52 countries assessing safety and efficacy of treatments to prevent cardiovascular events (4). Regulatory agencies prefer safety and efficacy to be documented in a multicentered clinical trial.
Projects Enabled by Globalization
Medicine has been transformed by recent global projects. The Human Genome Project involved investigators from 3 continents (5). Sequencing of the human genome showed that 99.5% of the deoxyribonucleic acid sequences are identical (6), indicating individual variation of humans, whether it be hair color or disease susceptibility, depends on the expression of this 0.5%. The HapMap Project, which annotated the position of millions of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the human genome of 3 ethnic groups (7), was followed by the 1000 Genome Project (8). The annotation and development of SNP microarrays enabled the first genome-wide association studies (GWAS) for chronic diseases. One example is CARDIoGRAM (Coronary Artery Disease Genome-wide Replication and Meta-analysis) (9), which is pursuing a GWAS for genetic susceptibility for CAD. CARDIoGRAM was formed initially from 14 separate GWAS from Canada, United States, England, Iceland, and Germany. CARDIoGRAM, with a multimillion-dollar budget, expanded to CARDIoGRAMplusC4D to include >200,000 cases and control subjects resulting in the discovery of >60 genetic risk variants predisposing to CAD (10,11). More than 1 million individuals have been genotyped for a GWAS, representing the largest biological investigation of humans (12). In the 609 GWAS publications from 2005 to 2010, there were 21,007 authorships comprising 8,718 individuals (12), resulting in the discovery of thousands of genetic risk variants predisposing to >160 diseases (13).
Multinational Authored Publications Improve Quality of Research
Multiple studies have observed that multiauthored publications from multiple institutions increase publication acceptance and the quality of research (14). The Royal Society, Britain’s National Academy of Science, indicates that 35% of all papers in international journals are the product of such collaborations (15). Multiauthored publications boost citation impact, distribute the cost, and broaden research horizons. Multiauthored publications increased from 50,000 in 1996 to around 95,000 in 2008. Almost one-half of Germany’s research output in 2008 appeared in multiauthored publications involving international collaborations. The citation impact increased as participating countries increased, reaching a peak at 10 countries. Russian researchers collaborating with researchers in Canada boosted the impact of publications by a factor of almost 5.
Jonathan Adams recently reviewed 25 million publications from Thomson Reuters Web of Science spanning from 1981 to 2012 (3). He observed that publications of domestic origin had flatlined in the United States and Western Europe and the increase in total publications was due to international collaboration. International research from the United Kingdom has almost doubled in the past decade. In the United Kingdom, domestic papers had an impact average of 1.1, whereas papers with >50% international authors had an impact of >1.6. Adams concluded that excellence begets excellence, and countries should draw on the global knowledge base; if not, it will seriously marginalize their scientific wealth. Not surprisingly, there is also a strong correlation between the financial and intellectual state of a country and its ability to pursue collaborative research on a global stage.
Prerequisite for Future Discovery and Innovation
Had globalization not been embraced by research, we might be without the many drugs in routine use today, the deoxyribonucleic acid sequence of the human genome, and the genetic variants predisposing to disease. The unique features of each human being, including predisposition to disease, are predominantly encoded by SNPs that remain fairly constant at 3.5 million per human genome. The challenge for the next 10 to 15 years is to determine the function of these SNPs and hope to identify novel and specific therapies for prevention and treatment. Coronary artery disease (CAD), long recognized as a preventable disease, is now a pandemic; it is the most common cause of death in both the developing and developed world (16). Epidemiologists have shown for decades that 40% to 60% of susceptibility for CAD is genetic (17,18). The recent discovery and replication of >60 genetic risk variants for CAD (11) confirms the role of genetics. The genetic risk variants have been shown (19–21) to be highly predictive of CAD independent of conventional risk factors, and also to be predictive of the response to statin therapy. Individuals with high genetic risk scores who adhered to a healthy lifestyle experienced a significant reduction in the number of coronary events (22). Given that CAD is a pandemic disease, it will require the engagement of multiple countries working together to prevent or minimize this global disease. The time has come and the ammunition is available to perform clinical trials utilizing comprehensive primary and secondary prevention, namely, modification of both acquired and genetic risk factors.
A Solution to First and Last Author Elitism
The academic world has traditionally attributed much greater impact to the first and last authors on a publication. Implicit in this dual recognition was the first author being the main “worker bee” or the individual who wrote the first draft together with the last author being the mentor, laboratory supervisor, or principal investigator on the grant. Today, research usually involves 20, 30, or even hundreds of authors. Promotional committees in academic institutions often downplay the author’s role in publications when listed as the sixth, seventh, or 70th. This is incorrect, because all the authors provide necessary resources and expertise essential to the study. We are also experiencing a 3-decade decrease in recruitment of physician scientists. It is essential that we facilitate and encourage our young investigators to participate in high-impact collaborative research, while at the same time we must enhance the visibility of their efforts. One solution, which is transparent and appropriate, would be for each different expertise required to perform the research and write the paper to be indicated at the end of the paper, along with the investigators who provided those skills. The other approach is that of an alphabetized author list (23), which is the preferred method in physics and many other sciences, but less so in the biological sciences.
Globalized Research Is our Future
There is general agreement that 2 of the great contributions of the Western world to society were democracy and the scientific method. The East is rapidly embracing the scientific method with enhanced discovery and innovation. Society expects scientific advancement to further improve the health of mankind, and this goal must be met by the global research community. Multiauthored research, particularly multinational authored research, must be recognized as essential, and our young and senior investigators rewarded as such.
The author thanks Miss Arlene Guadalupe Campillo, BS in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, for her support in preparation of this manuscript.
Dr. Roberts is supported by grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR #MOP82810) and Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI #11966); and is a consultant to Cumberland Pharmaceuticals.
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- Trend of Increasing Multiauthorships
- International Multiauthored Clinical Trial
- Projects Enabled by Globalization
- Multinational Authored Publications Improve Quality of Research
- Prerequisite for Future Discovery and Innovation
- A Solution to First and Last Author Elitism
- Globalized Research Is our Future