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JAMA. 2002 Jun 5;287(21):2772-4.

Problems with indexing and citation of articles with group authorship.

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  • 1Department of Community Health, Brown University, 169 Angell St, Box G-S2, Providence, RI 02912, USA.



It is not known whether articles with group authorship (ie, with a research group name listed as the author) are difficult to identify or whether use of group authorship may lead to problems with citation.


To examine ways in which reports of controlled trials with group authorship are indexed and citations counted in bibliographic databases, we conducted a cross-sectional study in January 2000. We identified 47 controlled trials funded by the National Eye Institute and 285 associated articles. Between January and August 2000, we searched PubMed and Science Citation Index (SCI) and recorded the citation practices for these articles. Our main outcome measures were ways in which trial reports were listed in PubMed and SCI and number of citations to each report by type of authorship.


Of the 285 published reports identified, 126 (44%) had group authorship, 109 (38%) had modified group authorship (listing individual names plus the name of the research group), and 50 (18%) had named authors only. In PubMed, no group authors were listed in the author field (per MEDLINE rules); in SCI, group-authored reports generally were incorrectly attributed (first name on investigator list [35.3%], first name on writing committee [25.5%], contact name [16.7%], anonymous [16.7%], and other [5.9%]). Using the SCI general search, we identified citations to 16.7% of group-authored reports, compared with citations to 96.9% of reports with modified group authorship and 93.9% of citations to reports with named authors only. Other systematic search methods found that more than 98% of group-authored reports actually had been cited and that group-authored reports were cited more than other reports.


Indexing systems are not optimally adapted to group authorship. We recommend that indexing services change their practices to include group authors in the author field to help correct the problem.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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