The Few & the Many: Why Big Science can be Detrimental

If you haven’t noticed already: author lists on academic publications are becoming longer and longer. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I think it’s a bad thing on average. Contrary to common sense, which sees interdisciplinary collaborations and holistic science in a long author list, I would argue that long author lists promote groupthink and mainstream science. Long author lists are like fruit salad, with different specialties co-existing but not merging, while we need smoothies, individuals that have merged different specialties within themselves. You can find my full reasoning on that in an article that I wrote, over at Medium.

Very briefly: short author lists (single/double-author studies etc.) promote variance, enable dogma-breaking, and incentivize novelty and originality. Further, short author lists let the individuals shine, both in language, contribution transparency, and content (in contrast to the overly smooth and bland product of a large collaboration). Both the few (papers with few authors) and the many (publications with many authors) bring different advantages to science; yet I fear we are currently rooting too much for the many. This could lead to an end (or at least a drastic reduction) of the few, a phenomenon we are already witnessing with the increasing number of papers with long author lists. If you think this is an interesting topic, check out the full article with the link above!

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