Authorship patterns in Information Systems

Sally Jo Cunningham and Stuart M. Dillon

Department of Computer Science

University of Waikato

Hamilton, New Zealand


Abstract: This paper examines the patterns of multiple authorship in five information systems journals. Specifically, we determine the distribution of the number of authors per paper in this field, the proportion of male and female authors, gender composition of research teams, and the incidence of collaborative relationships spanning institutional affiliations and across different geographic regions.

1. Introduction

In his seminal work Little Science, Big Science [16], Derek J. De Solla Price drew attention to the 20th century trend of increasing team work in scientific research and co-authorship in publication—making a tongue-in-cheek prediction that "by 1980 the single author paper will be extinct", and that scientific collaboration would continue to increase so that scholarly publications would "move steadily toward an infinity of authors per paper" (p. 89).

Since 1963, Price's conjectures have been measured and, to a large extent, verified, for a number of domains in the social sciences, arts, and physical sciences. Characteristics of collaboration in research have been examined in a number of ways: for example, through bibliographic analysis of readily quantifiable variables such as the rate of co-authorship and mean number of co-authors per document (for an overview of this type of research, see [10]); through studies of the social organizations that support collaboration in particular and research in general (such as the ground-breaking work of Crane [6]); and by ethnographic descriptions of the patterns of behavior employed by researchers in finding collaborators, organizing the research tasks, and composing the written documentation of the work (for example, the examination of the philosophy research process presented in [19]).

This paper examines authorship patterns in the field of Information Systems (IS). IS is a relatively young discipline, an interdisciplinary field at the conjunction of computer science, management, and the social sciences. It concerns itself primarily managerial, and "people" issues that support information management (primarily in an organizational context), and to a lesser extent with hardware and software issues. Perhaps because it is an emerging, interdisciplinary field, IS has been the focus of few bibliometric/scientometric studies. The present work uses bibliometric techniques to examine the extent of collaborative authorship in the field, the geographic distribution of co-authors, and gender patterns in publication and collaboration.

2. Methodology

The journals and time periods examined for this study are listed in Table 1. Journal articles, rather than books or technical reports, were chosen for analysis because the journal is the primary source of information in IS, making up the bulk of documents cited [7]. Five journals were selected for study, based on the criteria that they well known internationally, cover a relatively broad set of topics in the IS field, have author information available, and are published in the English language. It should be noted, however, that the journals selected tend to the management end of IS.

Journal title                              abbreviation      years         
Journal of Systems Management              JSM               1989-1995     
Information Systems Research               ISR               1990-1995     
Strategic Information Systems              SIS               1991-1995     
Management Information Systems Quarterly   MISQ              1989-1995     
Decision Support Systems                   DSS               1989-1995     

Table 1. Journals analyzed in this study

The following definitions and guidelines were used in gathering data from the five journals:

·author: All individuals identified as authors in the heading of the paper were included, and counted equally. Some journal volumes apparently enforced an alphabetic name ordering on authors, while other journals—or even other volumes of the same journal—did not; for this reason we did not attempt to record the rank orderings of authors. Only personal (rather than corporate) authors were included in this study.

·article: All refereed papers from each issue of each journal were considered for inclusion in the study. All other articles (book reviews, editorials, letters to the editor, reports of conferences, etc.) were excluded. While all refereed articles were included in the examination of co-authorship rates, some of these papers were omitted from the remainder of the study because the gender and/or the affiliation of one or more authors could not be determined.

·gender: Where possible, the gender of an author was determined from the author's biography or picture. If this information was not available or was inconclusive, the gender was inferred from the author's personal name(s). If any doubt remained for any co-author of an article (that is, if the author was listed only by initials or had an ambiguous personal name), then that article was omitted from the study of author gender.

·institution: For co-authored articles, we noted whether or not all authors were affiliated with the same institution (generally a university or company). A single institution could have more than one physical location.

·geographic area: Co-authored articles were examined to determine whether all authors' institutions are from the same geographic region. This somewhat subjective category was defined as follows: for highly populated and physically large countries such as the United States, authors were considered to be from the same region if their institution were located in the same or adjacent states; for lightly populated or physically compact countries (such as New Zealand or the Netherlands, respectively), the entire country was considered to be a single geographic region.

3. Results

This section discusses the amount of collaboration in publishing, the geographic/institutional spread of co-author affiliation, and the gender of authors in the IS literature.

degree of collaborative authorship

Tables 2—4 summarize authorship collaboration in IS. Approximately 38% of the articles have a single author; the majority of he papers are co-authored, with two or three authors (Table 2). The maximum number of authors for a single paper was six, found in a vanishingly small minority of the articles (less than 0.5%). Viewed strictly in terms of the percentage of co-authored papers (Table 3), it is readily apparent that co-authorship is the norm for all journals, over the entire period of study. The journal with the smallest degree of co-authorship, the Journal of Systems Management (JSM), saw its percentage of collaboratively written articles rise from approximately one-third to one-half; the remainder of the journals have a co-authorship rate ranging from 40% to 100%. The percentage of co-authored papers has risen slightly between 1989 and 1995 in four of the five journals—perhaps reflecting the trend to increased co-authorship reported in other fields, as the subjects matured [3].

number of        number of          percentage     
authors          articles                          
1                368                37.74%         
2                391                40.10%         
3                171                17.54%         
4                37                 3.80%          
5                4                  0.41%          
6                4                  0.41%          
Total            975                100.00%        

Table 2. Distribution of number of co-authors per paper

            JSM         ISR         SIS         MISQ        DSS         average     
1989        36%                                 68%         73%         59%         
1990        29%         75%                     68%         57%         57%         
1991        39%         92%         60%         77%         71%         68%         
1992        41%         100%        40%         81%         68%         66%         
1993        48%         92%         63%         89%         70%         72%         
1994        46%         90%         67%         82%         70%         71%         
1995        54%         87%         58%         87%         79%         75%         

Table 3. Percentage of co-authored articles

          Mean      Variance    Std dev    std error   Number of        
JSM       1.50      .466        .682       .039        308              
ISR       2.175     .604        .777       .079        97               
SIS       1.739     .655        .809       .086        88               
MISQ      2.251     .954        .977       .075        171              
DSS       2.071     .866        .931       .053        311              
Total     1.903     .799        .894       .029        975              

Table 4a. Mean number of co-authors per paper

Table 4b. T-test of mean number of co-authors

The mean number of authors per article ranged from 1.5 (for the Journal of Systems Management) to 2.175 (for Information Systems Research), with an overall mean of 1.903 (Table 4a). As was noted when considering the distribution of numbers of co-authors in Table 2, while collaboration is the norm, the size of the research team in IS is relatively small. Differences in mean between the journals was generally not statisticaly significant, with the exception of ISR/DSS and ISR/MISQ (Table 4b).

institutional affiliation and geographic region

Table 5 presents the institutional and geographical commonalities found amongst co-authors. As noted in Section 2, at this point we use a subset of the articles examined in this study: those papers for which we could identify the institutional affiliation and gender of all authors. For nearly half of the co-authored articles of this subset—46%—all authors for an article are either affiliated with the same institution or are resident in the same geographic region. Just over half of the multiply authored papers, then, involve a collaboration across significant distances. For nearly one-third (32%) of the co-authored papers, all authors are affiliated with the same institution—again, indicating a significant degree of collaboration across institutional boundaries. The collaborative relationships of working groups are thus surprisingly dispersed, suggesting that IS is a field with a healthy "invisible college".

                       JSM       ISR       SIS       MISQ      DSS       average     
                       1989-     1990-     1991-     1989-     1989-                 
                       1994      1994      1994      1994      1994                  
Co-authored articles     147       71 80     35 62     128       133       514 861   
occurrences out of     364 40%   89%       56%       166 77%   189 70%   60%         
co-authors from same       95        15        20        48        61        239     
institution OR same    147 65%   71 21%    35 58%    128 38%   133 46%   514 46%     
geographical area                                                                    
occurrences out of                                                                   
co-authors from same       34        1         5         11        23        74      
area,  different       147 23%   71 1%     35 14%    128 9%    133 17%   514 14%     
occurrences out of                                                                   

Table 5. Percentage of co-authors from the same institution or geographical area

gender of authors

Gender was recorded for all authors for whom it was explicitly stated or could be inferred; this could be determined for 861 papers, with 1021 authors. As no attempt was made to maintain a list of names, it is unknown how many unique individuals are represented in that total. Approximately four-fifths of the authors were male (Table 6), with male authors being in the majority for each journal.

Gender      Number       Percentage      
male        804          78.7%           
female      217          21.3%           

Table 6. Gender of authors

The preponderance of male authors appears to mirror the under-representation of women in the Management/IS disciplines of academia, in which opportunities for publication and research are more likely than in commercial enterprises ([12], [21]). IS departments are generally located within the business or management faculty in universities, where women tend to be over-represented as instructors, lecturers, contract researchers, and other untenured staff positions. In the mid-eighties in the US, for example, women held 52% of the instructor and lower teaching positions and 36% of the assistant professorships in business schools, but accounted for only 6% of the full [2]. These lower level positions provide fewer opportunities for research funding, and generally involve a higher teaching load (with proportionally less time for research).

Next, we examine the question of whether or not males and female have the same patterns of collaboration and co-authorship (Table 7). The percentage of male authors who published a single-authored paper is 37.31% ([343 male single authors] / [804 male authors]); the percentage of female authors who published solo is 18.89% ([41 single author females] / [217 female authors]). The percentage of male authors involved in male-only co-authored papers is 42.66% ([343 / 804]), while the percentage of female authors who published in female-only groups is 6.91% (15/217). Clearly, then, a female author is more likely to co-publish than a male author, and more likely to publish in mixed gender research teams.

              single       multiple      single       multiple        multiple          
              male author  authors,      female       authors,        authors, male     
                           male only     author       female only     and female        
number        300          343           41           15              161               
percentage    34.9%        39.9%         4.8%         1.7%            18.7%             

Table 7. Gender composition of publishing teams

4. Conclusions

The high proportion of multiply-authored papers is characteristic of the physical and life sciences rather than the social sciences. In the "hard" sciences the percentage of co-authored articles is reported to range from two-thirds and up ([5], [13]), with nearly universal co-authorship in fields for which research is based on complex, expensive instruments/equipment ([14], as reported in [9]). By way of contrast, the proportion of single-authored papers is much higher in the humanities and social sciences: in philosophy, for example, collaboration is so unusual that some researchers find it difficult to imagine how a joint project could be produced [19]. Even in these disciplines, however, sub-fields may vary in their degree of collaboration, often reflecting equipment or team needs outside the norm for that discipline (for example, biophysical and archaeological anthropology show higher degrees of collaboration than sociocultural and linguistic anthropology [4]). IS, then, seems to fit more into the multiply-authored norm of the physical or experimental sciences than the humanities/social sciences.

This point is slightly muddied, however, when comparing the mean number of authors in IS with the mean of other fields (Table 8). IS articles tend to have a smaller average number of co-authors than the "hard" sciences, even though the rate of co-authorship is high. Two hypotheses present themselves: that the experimental team needed to support IS research is smaller than the team size necessary for managing the instruments for the physical sciences; and/or that the support personnel for IS research may not be acknowledged with authorship, as seems to be the case in some of the sciences.

Discipline             authors/paper      year(s) of study    Reference       
Library science        1.17               1989-90             [17]            
Counseling             1.45               1971-1982           [8]             
Anthropology           1.79               1983                [4]             
Applied, physical,     2.13               1978-1980           [20]            
analytical chemistry                                                          
Chemical engineering   2.13                                   [22]            
Biomedicine (basic     2.21               1961-1978           [18]            
life sciences)                                                                
Biomedicine            2.25               1961-1978           [18]            
(preclinical basic                                                            
Biochemistry           2.41               1978-1980           [20]            
Biomedicine            2.71               1961-1978           [18]            
(clinical research)                                                           
Biochemistry           2.72                                   [22]            
Chemistry              2.82               1974-1975           [11]            
Schistosomiasis        2.92               1972-1986           [15]            
Political Science      3.54               1974-1975           [11]            
Biology                3.97               1974-1975           [11]            
Psychology             4.58               1974-1975           [11]            
Astronomy &            7.4                1974                [1]             

Table 8. Average number of authors for a variety of fields

The degree of collaboration in IS that crosses institutional and geographic boundaries is significant, and warrants further attention—in particular, to investigate the communication techniques that support co-authorship. Traditionally, collaboration occurs through face-to-face meetings, telephone, and postal correspondence; it is likely that email and other Internet-based communication modes also see significant use, given the naturally high degree of computer literacy in this field.


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