Making the paper cut

André Blais

André Blais

Credit: Amélie Philibert

In 5 seconds

Elections expert André Blais is the fifth-most-published political scientist in the world – and is lauded as one who collaborates the most with other researchers.

André Blais has another claim to fame: The distinguished Canadian professor and democracy expert is the fifth most productive political scientist in the world, according to a new bibliographic analysis of research papers published in scholarly journals.

Blais, a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada who teaches at Université de Montréal and is the leader of the Making Electoral Democracy Work project, also has the third-highest number of co-authors, the study shows.

The rankings are published in the January issue of PS: Political Science & Politics. In their study, researchers at the University of Freiburg, Germany, looked at more than 67,414 papers published from 1990 to 2013 in 96 major poli-sci journals in English.

Of 47,437 authors, the top-5 most productive are Kenneth J. Meier (Texas A&M University; 95 papers), Ron Johnston (University of Bristol, UK; 75), Bernard Grofman (University of California, Irvine; 74), Donald P. Green (Columbia University, New York; 65) and Blais (64), who tied with George A. Boyne (Cardiff University, UK,) and David Lowery (Pennsylvania State University).

Trend towards multiple authors

These and other prolific researchers are exceptions in the poli-sci world, however. "Whereas some (authors) are highly productive in terms of publications, the majority of authors published only a single paper, which suggests significant turnover in the community," the Freiburg study noted. Some 65% were one-time authors, whereas 15% wrote two papers and close to 7% wrote three.

And although about 60% of papers were written by a single author, "a trend toward multiple authors is visible across all journals," continued the study, written by Thomas Metz and Sebastian Jäckle. The largest paper had 55 authors; it was on medical planning for a nuclear catastrophe and was published in Biosecurity and Bioterrorism, a journal (now called Health Security) where eight out of 10 papers are co-authored.

One category of authors singled out for attention was experts on elections and voting behaviour, and of these, Blais has the highest number of co-authors (52), followed by R. Michael Alvarez of the California Institute of Technology (38). Overall, among all political scientists, Blais ranks third in the world for the number of co-authors (62); the top 2 had 86 and 70.

"Whereas publishing without co-authors was more common during the 1990s, the current standard for many journals is to publish the work of multiple authors working together," the Freiburg study concludes.

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