I’ve been meaning for some time to mention an article in the SMH a few weeks back week, discussingÂ theÂ happinessÂ paper that Justin Wolfers and I wrote. What caught my attention wasn’t the substance of the newspaper article, but its assumption thatÂ the first-listed author (in this case, me) must be the lead researcher.
New research, led by Dr Andrew Leigh of the Australian National University, has analysed a mass of “happiness” data obtained over the past six decades.
But that’s not the way we typically do things. As Joshua Gans explains it:
Economics stands in marked contrast to other disciplines in the social and natural sciences in this regard. The alphabetic norm means that co-authors elect to send no signal to the market regarding who contributed what to the paper. But this is in an environment where the both sides of the academic labour market would value such attribution. The ultimate reason postulated for the lack of a signal is the potential harm an alternative signal would have on co-authors with names â€œlowerâ€ in the alphabet; especially when the market places weight on the fact that an alphabetical ordering signals little. This harm is greater than the potential gain to the other co-author from providing such a signal, and hence they agree to follow the alphabetic convention.