Lets start by the following paragraph taken from Wikipedia:

Rules for the order of multiple authors in a list have historically varied significantly between fields of research. Some fields list authors in order of their degree of involvement in the work, with the most active contributors listed first; other fields, such as mathematics or engineering (e.g., control theory), sometimes list them alphabetically. Historically biologists tended to place a principal investigator (supervisor or lab head) last in an author list whereas organic chemists might have put him or her first. Research articles in high energy physics, where the author lists can number in the tens to hundreds, often list authors alphabetically. In Computer Science in general the principal contributor is the first in the author list. However, the practice of putting the principal investigator last in the author list has increasingly become an accepted standard across most areas in science and engineering. Although listing authors in order of the involvement in the project seems straightforward, it often leads to conflict. A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that more than two-thirds of 919 corresponding authors disagreed with their coauthors regarding contributions of each author.

I did some research to see if there are any particular rules for the order of authors in OR/MS journals but could not find anything. Although I am doing a PhD in OR at the moment, I am trying my best to become a university professor in the near future. I myself believe that the order of names should be something like the following:

(student) => (supervisor/co-supervisor) => (others)

This order is what I think is good to follow (and I will do even if I myself become a supervisor later). Here is my reasoning:

  1. Alphabetical order can be totally unfair. I don’t care if in mathematics they follow alphabetical order or not. For whatever reason they accept this rule, it can still be unfair. Simply because it is a tradition does not mean that it is the right thing to do.
  2. Alphabetical order is not necessarily used in OR/MS even in journals like Mathematical Programming and Mathematics of OR (if we take the target journals into account).
  3. Simply because we develop and solve mathematical models in OR/MS does not imply that we must follow the alphabetical order. As in other fields where mathematics is used, OR and MS are mainly about the applications of mathematics in modeling and solving real-world problems.
  4. I believe that the above order should be used rather than considering department/school/affiliation or country. Suppose the student comes from (or wants to go to) a country where the first author receives the most credit. If in his/her department they tend to use alphabetical order, then it may cost the student, say his/her future carrier.
  5. A few weeks ago I attended a workshop on grant-writing. The tutor mentioned that sometimes it does matter that the person applying for a grant has been the first author in his/her relevant papers. She mentioned that in business/industry people usually don’t know about such rules [even if they exist] in academia. Therefore, using alphabetic order can be unfair even in this regard.
  6. If the student’s name comes first, it can be a really good motivation for him/her. Otherwise, if the student is not happy it can simply affect his/her progress.

I also believe that in the end, that is a decision that authors of the paper take together. They can use any order as long as they are all happy with it. They may negotiate or whatever but they should not refer to the traditional rules as it is not logical. What do you think?

asked 15 Oct '17, 04:26

Opt1989's gravatar image

accept rate: 0%

Despite being a "T", I have always gone with alphabetical order. If I deviate from it, then people will start to wonder about the relevance of the order of all of my papers. I have seen those who put a PhD student first. Those two cases cover about 95% of my experience in OR/MS. I generally have not seen "order of importance". But as for (6), I would hope that author order is not truly a motivating issue for students: that would not bode well for a successful research career.

The Student->supervisor->others order does seem to minimize the work of "others", since if the order is neither alphabetical nor student first, then perhaps it is perceived as importance. In some sciences, the last author spot is reserved for the person who provided the funding.

Of course, I am lucky that my doctoral students have last names beginning with M, R, S and so on. I have been further fortunate to have written papers with Yildez, Yunes, and Zin.


answered 15 Oct '17, 06:12

Mike%20Trick's gravatar image

Mike Trick ♦♦
accept rate: 21%

Well, when I first read your answer I thought by Despite being a "T" you mean True! Given that your family name starts with T and you accepted the alphabetical rule in the first place, it is completely understandable why you decided to go with that order (because people would start to wonder about the relevance of the order of all of your papers). But the question is, why did you go with the alphabetical order in the first place?

(16 Oct '17, 08:10) Opt1989

And besides, writing each paper is a separate "project" that is completed by the co-authors together. So we should first care about their happiness rather than what other people may think about the order of authors. Right?

(16 Oct '17, 08:20) Opt1989

I went with alphabetical in the first place because I knew this was a repeated game, and I didn't want to spend my life worrying about this (to me) trivial matter. If I were to argue "Hey, put me first!", I might have gotten first on paper one, but there might not have been paper two, three, or four. And what I think is happiness today might well not be happiness tomorrow.

(16 Oct '17, 09:03) Mike Trick ♦♦

It's a really good answer:) That's why I would put (student) first. I thought maybe the order (student)=>(supervisors)=>(others) is fair in most of the cases. If we insist on using the alphabetical rule, then I would changed it to (student)=>(alphabetical order). I think the student's name should come first because in the end that's "his/her PhD".

(16 Oct '17, 10:01) Opt1989

The phrase "order of importance" is a bit ambiguous. I haven't been involved in one of these myself, but I've seen papers where the author with the most rank or clout (or the author who thinks he is most "important") goes first. I have been coauthor of papers where the authors were listed in descending order of magnitude of contribution (and others where that was not the case).

(16 Oct '17, 14:08) Paul Rubin ♦♦

There is no universally accepted order for authors in OR/IE (as far as I know), but when you're a doctoral candidate there is an accepted order: whatever your major professor (advisor) says it is. Once you graduate and join the faculty somewhere, the confusion begins.


answered 16 Oct '17, 14:10

Paul%20Rubin's gravatar image

Paul Rubin ♦♦
accept rate: 19%

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Asked: 15 Oct '17, 04:26

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Last updated: 16 Oct '17, 14:10

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