NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Certified Random: A New Order for Co-Authorship

Debraj Ray, Arthur Robson

NBER Working Paper No. 22602
Issued in September 2016
NBER Program(s):   DEV   HC   IO   LS   ME   PE   POL   PR

In economics, alphabetical name order is the baseline norm for joint publications. A growing literature suggests, however, that alphabetical order confers uneven benefits on the first author. This paper introduces and studies certified random order, which involves randomization of names that is institutionally ratified by a commonly understood symbol. Certified random order maintains all the ethical niceties of alphabetical order, but in addition: (a) it distributes the psychological and perceptual weight given to first authorship evenly over the alphabet, (b) it allows either author to signal credit when contributions are extremely unequal, (c) it will be willingly adopted in a decentralized manner even in an environment where alphabetical order is dominant, (d) it is robust to deviations, (e) it dominates alphabetical order on the grounds of ex-ante efficiency, and (f) barring the addition of a simple symbol, it is no more complex than the old system, and brings perfect symmetry to joint authorship.

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This paper was revised on December 28, 2016

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22602

 
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