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A paper by David Pontille in the CNRS news.
In May 2015, two articles published in prestigious scientific journals broke the records in their respective fields for number of co-authors. The first paper, which focused on a genome segment of Drosophila melanogaster, was published with a list of 1014 co-authors. The reactions were immediate: while certain genomics specialists felt that so many names debased the meaning of authorship, others wondered about the actual contribution of each author. The second article concerned the most precise evaluation of the Higgs boson to date and had no fewer than 5154 co-authors. Yet despite being five times longer, this astonishing list of authors aroused no particular indignation among physicists. How to make sense of such a difference?
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