Progression of Authorship of Scientific Articles in The Journal of Hand Surgery, 1985-2015.

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Student Program



Journal of Hand Surgery





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PURPOSE: For scientists, authorship is academic currency. Authorship characteristics have been studied in a subset of the surgical and medical literature, but trends in the specialty of hand surgery have not yet been investigated. Specifically, a longitudinal analysis of number, educational training, sex, and geographical origin of authors has not been conducted. We explored the progression of authorship of scientific articles in a leading hand surgery journal.

METHODS: We recorded number of authors, number of references, degrees, and sex of the first and senior authors as well as geographical origin of the corresponding author in The Journal of Hand Surgery in 1985, 1995, 2005, and 2015. All original work was analyzed.

RESULTS: A total of 892 articles were reviewed. The mean number of authors per article increased significantly from 2.6 in 1985 to 3.9 in 2015 and the number of references increased significantly from 13.7 in 1985 to 22.6 in 2015. There was a significant increase in the proportion of first authors with an MD/PhD, PhD, master's or bachelor's degree since 1985. During that same time period, a decrease in the proportion of first authors who held solely an MD was seen. There was a significant increase in proportion of the number of last authors with an MD/PhD, PhD or Master's degree in that same time period. There has been significant growth in publications originating from the "Far East" and "Other" regions, with 4.2% and 5.0% of publications, respectively, in 1985 having increased to 10.3% and 7.4% of publications, respectively, in 2015. Female first authorship significantly increased over the study period from 7.9% in 1985 to 22.1% of publications in 2015.

CONCLUSIONS: There has been a significant increase in number of authors per article in The Journal of Hand Surgery. Similar to other studies, we noted shifts in the degrees most commonly held by authors, an increase in references per article, and a greater representation of international authors in the hand surgery. In addition, the proportion of manuscripts written by female authors has increased in the past 30 years, with the largest increase occurring between 2005 and 2015.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: This manuscript strives to provide further insight into the changing characteristics of authors contributing to the hand surgery literature. With increased pressure to publish in academia, it is important to understand how publishing author characteristics have evolved over time. In addition, the published literature of a field could be considered one repository of the insights and advancements of the field. One would hope that the authors contributing to that literature are a deep and wide reflection of the people working in that field. Analyzing authorship is one way to assess the breadth and depth of contributions from the profession.

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