Putting the first back in first author

UPDATE: As of April 2012 Wiley has now changed their feeds to include the full list of authors. Thanks to Brady Allred for letting us know.

An open letter to John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Dear Wiley,

I like a lot of things that you do, but a few months ago you quietly changed your RSS feeds in a way that is both disrespectful and frankly not good for your business. You started including only the last author’s name in the RSS feed. This is bad idea for three reasons:

  1. It shows a complete lack of respect for (or understanding of) a number of scientific disciplines that do not have a strong last author tradition (including ecology; a field in which you publish a large proportion of the journals). If you do this for a paper from my field then most of the time you are publishing the name of the least significant contributor.
  2. Even in disciplines (or labs) where there is a last author tradition, not including the name of the (often junior) person who did most of the work is just disrespectful. Yes, maybe you’ll attract more click-throughs with a more senior name, but the goal in scientific fields has always been to provide credit where credit is due and you are failing to honor that tradition.
  3. Finally (and worst of all from your perspective), you are costing yourself readers. One of the considerations that I make when deciding to read a paper is based on who the authors are. At least in fields like mine I will rarely see a name associated with a paper that is meaningful to me since the last author may well be an undergraduate or a tech.

In case you think this is just one person’s opinion we took a quick informal poll a little while ago. Of 37 respondents 100% agree that if you are going to list a single author’s name with a paper it should be the first author.

So please, either switch back to using the first author’s name or, better yet, actually list the entire author line. Seeing someone’s name whose work we respect will encourage us to click-through to the paper regardless of where that name occurs in the author line.


Ethan White (and the readers of Jabberwocky Ecology)

P.S. Also, we know that the RSS feed includes the abstract. We don’t need it in large, bold, capitalized letters at the top of every feed.

5 Comments on “Putting the first back in first author

  1. Thanks to everyone who participated in the polls and commented on the previous posts and particular thanks to Karthik Ram for suggesting that we contact Wiley. It’s actually a little difficult to find the right person on Wiley’s site, but I’ve sent this along and hopefully it will get to the right person.

  2. Beginning sometime this month (April 2012), my RSS feeds from Wiley (at least a sample of them, including BES journals) include the entire author line 🙂

  3. Hooray! Thanks for letting me know Brady. I just opened up my reader and there it was. Very exciting. So, can Jabberwocky Ecology claim credit for for having changed how Wiley’s RSS feed for the better 🙂

    Also, thanks to Wiley for fixing this and specifically to Liz Ferguson for helping communicate our concerns.

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