[My Computational Complexity Web Log] Ordering Authors
Every scientific field has their own rules for the order of authors in a paper. In theoretical computer science, tradition dictates that we list the authors alphabetically by last name. I don't agree with this tradition; rarely do all the co-authors of a paper play an equal role. The decision whether to add someone as a co-author, and thus an equal, often becomes difficult.
But breaking with tradition can have its own problems. I have three papers that break the alphabetical rule though two were in biology which has its own rules. In the other back in 1990, Carsten Lund, a graduate student at the time, made the key step in developing an interactive proof system for the permanent. For that we made him first author in the Lund-Fortnow-Karloff-Nisan paper. In retrospect I regret this decision. It only added confusion to those who cited the paper. Also did Lund not play as important a role in other papers where we kept alphabetical order? Breaking with tradition, even with the best of intentions, can often cause more harm than good.
Posted by Lance Fortnow to My Computational Complexity Web Log at 12/12/2003 08:44:45 AM
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