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342 Coauthors?: Testing the Limits of Collaboration in an Age of Crowdsourcing

A recent article accepted by the Journal of Finance has - checks notes - 342 coauthors! Is this the future of academic publishing - or is it an anomaly?

By David WyldPublished 7 months ago 15 min read
342 Coauthors?: Testing the Limits of Collaboration in an Age of Crowdsourcing
Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

Overview

Okay! If you have ever coauthored an article with one, two, three, or more people, you certainly looked at the title of this article and said something along the lines of “What the heck?” (or more, if you are alone right now). I know I did when I first heard of the existence of this article - an actual academic article that is accepted right now and will be appearing in an “A” journal (the Journal of Finance) very soon with - checks notes - well over 300 authors!

Ask any college student today about group work, and most will not describe working together on assignments, tasks, projects, etc., in exactly glowing terms. Ask any office worker, any HR person, any marketing team member, basically anyone who works where two or more are gathered - whether physically and/or virtually today, about their experiences working together, and well, you may get an earful! While we can do more and accomplish greater things through collaboration, oftentimes, group work - whether in the classroom or in the corporate setting - ends up being hindered by communication issues, personal conflicts, group discord, and just generally “bad feelings.” In fact, many people will go to great lengths - even taking on much more responsibility and work themselves - simply to avoid having to “play well with others.” And yes, group “issues” only seem to be compounded with each and every person who works on a project or task.

By Crissy Jarvis on Unsplash

In short, the math is too often really simple: More people, more problems! As a management consultant and professor, while we talk about the value of collaboration and the lure of synergy in working together, one must always temper such discussions with the disclaimer that is the math of having people work together. In most instances, the complexities - in communication, in coordination, in just conducting the music - are not just additive when you add a third, fifth, or tenth person to a project, it is more exponential in nature! This is just as true when you add coauthors to an academic research project as it is when adding people to a student group in college or to a work project in the “real world” of business. In short, while the extra help can be very useful and beneficial, there is always that truism out there working against you in those four words: More people, more problems!

So, it is with a mix of alarm and awe that I had to check the story of this article out. How can you have this many authors on a paper? Why would you have this many authors on a paper? Could this be at all workable - and might this just be a big part of the future of academic publishing? I know my inquiring mind wanted to know more - and as you read ahead, I think you will be more than a bit intrigued by the proposition of how the article, “Non-Standard Errors,” has - according to an analysis carried out by Marius Zoican, a professor of finance at the Rotman School of Management and the University of Toronto Mississauga, not just 343 authors, but 342 coauthors from a total of 34 countries and 207 separate universities and other institutions/entities!

By Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

The “Deets:” How Does an Article Have 342 Coauthors?

Now, for every academic researcher out there, an “A-level” publication - one of the recognized top-level journals in his or her field - is their “holy grail.” Hitting these high-level journals can go a long way to “make” one’s career and help you to achieve not just tenure, but prominence in one’s selected field of study. Sure, there will be various perspectives held by researchers as to which journals are specifically “A-level” publications in their area of specialty. However, at least across business fields, when the title is “The Journal of Your Field” (e.g. the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Accountancy, the Journal of Management), few will disagree with the position that the publication in question is a top-flight journal. And so it is with the Journal of Finance - the official publication of The American Finance Association - in the financial area.

By Huma Kabakci on Unsplash

Recently, an article was listed by the Journal of Finance as being “forthcoming.” Now, in the good old days, say a decade ago, the expression used for an article that had been accepted, but not published, was that it was “in press.” This effectively meant that no one could see the article until it - literally - was published in the paper version of the journal when the particular volume and issue that it was slated for went to press. Ah, but how the Internet has changed the game! Now, once an article has been accepted by a journal - having traversed what is often a lengthy and indeed arduous, sometimes contentious, review process with anonymous reviewers - it is generally made available on the journal’s website and beyond. This is a “quantum leap” improvement for all parties involved, as interested readers can access and make use of the article “early” (sometimes months or even years early with the backlog of accepted papers for a journal) and yes, authors of the article can “claim” their publication on their resume and vita. The journal’s website and other sites that link to it and/or access the journal’s pre-publication version of the paper get more traffic. And yes, any new knowledge that is brought to the fore by the authors of the article is shared with the world, hopefully to do good! In short, it's a “win-win” for all!

And yet, by having early notice of the forthcoming publication of an article in a top-flight journal, everyone has access to these accepted, but not yet “published” articles. Such has been the case with an article, with the short, innocuous and non-controversial, non-”sexy” title of “Non-Standard Errors” that is forthcoming from the Journal of Finance. To date (late December 2023), the article has drawn a good bit of attention - with its abstract having been viewed over 50,000 times and the whole paper having been downloaded by over 13,000 interested parties (myself included). And you, too, can see the entire 111-page paper at this link!

Now, I’m not going to bore you with the specifics of this paper - and yes, finance research - and really all research across all business fields today - takes a high-level of math knowledge for one to be able to understand exactly what is being done by the researchers. Let’s just say that the researchers in this case “crowdsourced” data across 164 research sites to demonstrate how the non-standard error - the difference between what was measured and what you actually want to measure in a study - can be larger than the standard error in a data set, even as our abilities to use “big data” grow. The lead author and the “driver of the train” for this study, Professor Albert J. Menkveld of Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, explained his research proposition and the basis for the large study in two very approachable, readable posts, which I would urge you to read his pieces:

  • Non-Standard Errors I
  • Non-Standard Errors II

Now, while the study would garner some level of attention for the nature and ambition of the research project - conducting research with 164 different research teams around the world is a daunting and laudable task, no doubt, Menkveld’s study has garnered a good bit of attention based on sheerly the numbers. No, no the large, large sample size that he generated by having the research replicated all around the world for this study. Rather, the publicity has surrounded the number of coauthors - 342 - listed for the paper! And yes, here they are in the suggested citation for the article. And I’m including each and every one of them here just to let you appreciate just how many coauthors 342 actually are - and yes, to give them a congratulatory shout-out on their having achieved an A-level publication in their field!

Suggested Citation for “Non-Standard Errors” (link):

Menkveld, Albert J. and Dreber, Anna and Holzmeister, Felix and Huber, Juergen and Johanneson, Magnus and Kirchler, Michael and Razen, Michael and Weitzel, Utz and Abad, David and Abudy, Menachem (Meni) and Adrian, Tobias and Ait-Sahalia, Yacine and Akmansoy, Olivier and Alcock, Jamie and Alexeev, Vitali and Aloosh, Arash and Amato, Livia and Amaya, Diego and Angel, James J. and Bach, Amadeus and Baidoo, Edwin and Bakalli, Gaetan and Barbon, Andrea and Bashchenko, Oksana and Bindra, Parampreet Christopher and Bjonnes, Geir Hoidal and Black, Jeffrey R. and Black, Bernard S. and Bohorquez, Santiago and Bondarenko, Oleg and Bos, Charles S. and Bosch-Rosa, Ciril and Bouri, Elie and Brownlees, Christian T. and Calamia, Anna and Cao, Viet Nga and Capelle-Blancard, Gunther and Capera, Laura and Caporin, Massimiliano and Carrion, Allen and Caskurlu, Tolga and Chakrabarty, Bidisha and Chernov, Mikhail and Cheung, William Ming Yan and Chincarini, Ludwig B. and Chordia, Tarun and Chow, Sheung Chi and Clapham, Benjamin and Colliard, Jean-Edouard and Comerton-Forde, Carole and Curran, Edward and Dao, Thong and Dare, Wale and Davies, Ryan J. and De Blasis, Riccardo and De Nard, Gianluca and Declerck, Fany and Deev, Oleg and Degryse, Hans and Deku, Solomon and Desagre, Christophe and van Dijk, Mathijs A. and Dim, Chukwuma and Dimpfl, Thomas and Dong, Yun Jiang and Drummond, Philip and Dudda, Tom L. and Dumitrescu, Ariadna and Dyakov, Teodor and Dyhrberg, Anne Haubo and Dzieliński, Michał and Eksi, Asli and El Kalak, Izidin and ter Ellen, Saskia and Eugster, Nicolas and Evans, Martin D.D. and Farrell, Michael and Félez-Viñas, Ester and Ferrara, Gerardo and FERROUHI, El Mehdi and Flori, Andrea and Fluharty-Jaidee, Jonathan and Foley, Sean and Fong, Kingsley Y. L. and Foucault, Thierry and Franus, Tatiana and Franzoni, Francesco A. and Frijns, Bart and Frömmel, Michael and Fu, Servanna Mianjun and Füllbrunn, Sascha and Gan, Baoqing and Gehrig, Thomas and Gerritsen, Dirk and Gil-Bazo, Javier and Glosten, Lawrence R. and Gomez, Thomas and Gorbenko, Arseny and Güçbilmez, Ufuk and Grammig, Joachim and Gregoire, Vincent and Hagströmer, Björn and Hambuckers, Julien and Hapnes, Erik and Harris, Jeffrey H. and Harris, Lawrence and Hartmann, Simon and Hasse, Jean-Baptiste and Hautsch, Nikolaus and He, Xue-Zhong 'Tony' and Heath, Davidson and Hediger, Simon and Hendershott, Terrence J. and Hibbert, Ann Marie and Hjalmarsson, Erik and Hoelscher, Seth and Hoffmann, Peter and Holden, Craig W. and Horenstein, Alex R. and Huang, Wenqian and Huang, Da and Hurlin, Christophe and Ivashchenko, Alexey and Iyer, Subramanian R. and Jahanshahloo, Hossein and Jalkh, Naji and Jones, Charles M. and Jurkatis, Simon and Jylha, Petri and Kaeck, Andreas and Kaiser, Gabriel and Karam, Arzé and Karmaziene, Egle and Kassner, Bernhard and Kaustia, Markku and Kazak, Ekaterina and Kearney, Fearghal and van Kervel, Vincent and Khan, Saad and Khomyn, Marta and Klein, Tony and Klein, Olga and Klos, Alexander and Koetter, Michael and Krahnen, Jan Pieter and Kolokolov, Aleksey and Korajczyk, Robert A. and Kozhan, Roman and Kwan, Amy and Lajaunie, Quentin and Lam, Full Yet Eric Campbell and Lambert, Marie and Langlois, Hugues and Lausen, Jens and Lauter, Tobias and Leippold, Markus and Levin, Vladimir and Li, Yijie and Li, (Michael) Hui and Liew, Chee Yoong and Lindner, Thomas and Linton, Oliver B. and Liu, Jiacheng and Liu, Anqi and Llorente-Alvarez, Jesus-Guillermo and Lof, Matthijs and Lohr, Ariel and Longstaff, Francis A. and Lopez-Lira, Alejandro and Mankad, Shawn and Mano, Nicola and Marchal, Alexis and Martineau, Charles and Mazzola, Francesco and Meloso, Debrah C and Mihet, Roxana and Mohan, Vijay and Moinas, Sophie and Moore, David and Mu, Liangyi and Muravyev, Dmitriy and Murphy, Dermot and Neszveda, Gabor and Neumeier, Christian and Nielsson, Ulf and Nimalendran, Mahendrarajah and Nolte, Sven and Nordén, Lars L. and O'Neill, Peter and Obaid, Khaled and Ødegaard, Bernt Arne and Östberg, Per and Painter, Marcus and Palan, Stefan and Palit, Imon and Park, Andreas and Pascual Gascó, Roberto and Pasquariello, Paolo and Pastor, Lubos and Patel, Vinay and Patton, Andrew J. and Pearson, Neil D. and Pelizzon, Loriana and Pelster, Matthias and Pérignon, Christophe and Pfiffer, Cameron and Philip, Richard and Plíhal, Tomáš and Prakash, Puneet and Press, Oliver-Alexander and Prodromou, Tina and Putnins, Talis J. and Raizada, Gaurav and Rakowski, David A. and Ranaldo, Angelo and Regis, Luca and Reitz, Stefan and Renault, Thomas and Wang, Renjie and Renò, Roberto and Riddiough, Steven and Rinne, Kalle and Rintamäki, Paul and Riordan, Ryan and Rittmannsberger, Thomas and Rodríguez Longarela, Iñaki and Rösch, Dominik and Rognone, Lavinia and Roseman, Brian and Rosu, Ioanid and Roy, Saurabh and Rudolf, Nicolas and Rush, Stephen and Rzayev, Khaladdin and Rzeźnik, Aleksandra and Sanford, Anthony and Sankaran, Harikumar and Sarkar, Asani and Sarno, Lucio and Scaillet, Olivier and Scharnowski, Stefan and Schenk-Hoppé, Klaus Reiner and Schertler, Andrea and Schneider, Michael and Schroeder, Florian and Schuerhoff, Norman and Schuster, Philipp and Schwarz, Marco A. and Seasholes, Mark S. and Seeger, Norman and Shachar, Or and Shkilko, Andriy and Shui, Jessica and Sikic, Mario and Simion, Giorgia and Smales, Lee A. and Söderlind, Paul and Sojli, Elvira and Sokolov, Konstantin and Spokeviciute, Laima and Stefanova, Denitsa and Subrahmanyam, Marti G. and Neusüss, Sebastian and Szaszi, Barnabas and Talavera, Oleksandr and Tang, Yuehua and Taylor, Nicholas and Tham, Wing Wah and Theissen, Erik and Thimme, Julian and Tonks, Ian and Tran, Hai and Trapin, Luca and Trolle, Anders B. and Valente, Giorgio and Van Ness, Robert A. and Vasquez, Aurelio and Verousis, Thanos and Verwijmeren, Patrick and Vilhelmsson, Anders and Vilkov, Grigory and Vladimirov, Vladimir and Vogel, Sebastian and Voigt, Stefan and Wagner, Wolf and Walther, Thomas and Weiss, Patrick and van der Wel, Michel and Werner, Ingrid M. and Westerholm, P. Joakim and Westheide, Christian and Wipplinger, Evert and Wolf, Michael and Wolff, Christian C. P. and Wolk, Leonard and Wong, Wing-Keung and Wrampelmeyer, Jan and Xia, Shuo and Xiu, Dacheng and Xu, Ke and Xu, Caihong and Yadav, Pradeep K. and Yagüe, José and Yan, Cheng and Yang, Antti and Yoo, Woongsun and Yu, Wenjia and Yu, Shihao and Yueshen, Bart Zhou and Yuferova, Darya and Zamojski, Marcin and Zareei, Abalfazl and Zeisberger, Stefan and Zhang, Sarah and Zhang, Xiaoyu and Zhong, Zhuo and Zhou, Z. Ivy and Zhou, Chen and Zhu, Xingyu Sonya and Zoican, Marius and Zwinkels, Remco C.J. and Chen, Jian and Duevski, Teodor and Gao, Ge and Gemayel, Roland and Gilder, Dudley and Kuhle, Paul and Pagnotta, Emiliano and Pelli, Michele and Sönksen, Jantje and Zhang, Lu and Ilczuk, Konrad and Bogoev, Dimitar and Qian, Ya and Wika, Hans C. and Yu, Yihe and Zhao, Lu and Mi, Michael and Bao, Li and Vaduva, Andreea and Prokopczuk, Marcel and Avetikian, Alejandro and Wu, Zhen-Xing, Non-Standard Errors (May 31, 2023). Journal of Finance Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3961574 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3961574

By Isaac Smith on Unsplash

Analysis

Now, as one might suspect, this article has generated a great deal of discussion about research ethics and what it means to truly be an “author” of a paper (See, for example, “JF Forthcoming paper with 342 authors and 207 institutions”). Beyond discussions online, I can tell you with 100% certainty that this article with 342 coauthors will be the subject of much discussion not just in faculty lounges, but in the administrative offices of many - well, in fact, most - colleges and universities. Why? It is that headline number: 342!

Many will argue that if you are one of 342 coauthors, there’s no way that you really significantly contributed to that article. Many will take the stance that such an article should not count as a “real” publication for these authors, and such a position could indeed be the difference between an “up” or “down” decision on little things like, oh, offering a contract to, affording tenure to, granting promotion to, basing a merit raise on this particular publication… for each of these 342 individuals. To say that “a lively discussion will ensue…” in many committee meetings over the fact that there were 342 coauthors on this one article is putting it mildly. And yes, in America at least, this could lead to intense litigation over just what counts as “authorship” and a “publication” in 2023, 2024, 2025 and beyond.

By Kai Pilger on Unsplash

Now, as a professor “of a certain age,” you might well expect me to come down on the side of the “traditionalists” in the academy who would say something to the effect of, “there’s no way - nada - that an article with 342 coauthors should possibly count!” And yet, I’m going to say exactly the opposite! I think we need more of this! We need bigger research projects to explore big data, and yes, that takes more people to do them! Can it reasonably take a hundred coauthors, two hundred, 342, or even a thousand? That should be dictated on the circumstances, and certainly not by fiat, rule, policy or dictate (but let me guess, many institutions will develop such provisions limiting coauthorship to the first 5, 6, 7...10 coauthors listed on a work).

By 金 运 on Unsplash

The trend toward journal articles having more authors is also a “market reaction” to something that isn’t talked about enough, that being an often assumed - and misunderstood - part of academic publishing. In most instances today, academic journals charge authors for the privilege of publishing their work, rather than giving payments/royalties for using their work. This makes academics the only people on the planet who pay for outlets to publish their research! Yes, most academic journals today charge their authors publication fees - fees that can range into the hundreds, and in many cases, thousands of dollars, just for the privilege of seeing the article actually get published that took - quite often - years of blood, sweat, and tears that went into researching and crafting it! Not to single it out, but the Journal of Finance charges its authors fees of over $4000 to publish an article currently! This level of fees means that more and more people will work together on articles for top-flight journals not just out of necessity for the research project itself, but to pay for the publication fees by splitting them among more contributors. It is indeed strange economics at work, economics that make little sense to those outside of the higher education industry.

Now, I began this article by talking about the difficulty of managing groups and the almost exponential mushrooming of the difficulties involved in such when a group/team grows beyond 2, 3, or 4 people to 10, a dozen, or two dozen, let alone hundreds! Try 342! Thus, I really have to take my management professor hat off to Professor Albert J. Menkveld of Vrije Universiteit - whatever his motivations on this! And by the way, I have seen nothing to suggest that he sought to create this large research team for either a personal profit motive (i.e. a “pay to play” scheme for coauthors) or to expose the absurdity of a system where academics have to pay big money to see their works be published by academic journals. Simply being able to manage such a global operation with 164 independent research teams, comprised of 342 individuals, is nothing short of a Herculean task! Dr. Menkveld is to be congratulated - heartily congratulated - for having had the ability to see this through and - to borrow a management axiom that really fits here - “to land the plane” successfully! Hitting a top-tier academic journal is tough, and this is Professor Menkveld’s sixth Journal of Finance article! And he does have a sense of humor about how you manage a research project with 342 individuals and 164 separate research teams - which he claims to be the largest known published research project to date in any field!

In the end, I do expect colleges and universities to try and clamp down on such large, large research projects (at least with larger and larger numbers of coauthors). The backlash will indeed be to put limits on the number of coauthors - both by college administrators (i.e. for an article to “count” for your tenure/promotion/merit) and even by academic journals themselves (i.e. for what they believe to be “reputational risk” from articles with a large number of coauthors). However, the trend toward bigger and bigger projects, especially crowdsourced ones, is not just coming, it’s here. Thus, for academics, for administrators, and for academic publications, the time may have come for the establishment of something like “tiered authorship,” where one could be listed not as a coauthor of a paper per se, but more as a contributor to the research who should receive some credit for having collaborated on the research project.

In short, expect there to be much discussion about all of this and the “342 Coauthors Article” to be Exhibit A by both sides in any argument over what is - and what is not - proper academic research today - and tomorrow!

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About David Wyld

David C. Wyld is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness. You can view all of his work at https://authory.com/DavidWyld. You can subscribe to his Medium article feed at: https://davidwyld.medium.com/subscribe.

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About the Creator

David Wyld

Professor, Consultant, Doer. Founder/Publisher of The IDEA Publishing (http://www.theideapublishing.com/) & Modern Business Press (http://www.modernbusinesspress.com)

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Comments (1)

  • Mark Graham7 months ago

    I am a person interested in doing research and getting published somewhere. My forte is reviews and now I am a reviewer for Story Monsters Ink a magazine devoted to children's literature and teachers.

David WyldWritten by David Wyld

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