K99-R00 Publication Analysis-Part 6-First and Last Authorships

Oct 27 2014 Published by under Uncategorized

The K99-R00 program in an interesting one from the point of view of evaluation since this program has cohorts of investigators who begin at approximately the same career stage and then progress through several transitions into independent careers. These different career stages should be reflected in different positions in the author list for publications. Below is a plot of the total number of publications, the number of first author publications, the number of last author publications, and the number of sole author publications per investigator per year for 132 investigators who received K99 awards in FY2007 and went on to receive an R00 award. No attempt was made to correct for joint first authors or for joint corresponding authors.

All Pubs-First,Last-plot-Large

As anticipated, this plot reveals that, prior to receiving the K99 award, these investigators (on average) publish an approximately equal mixture of first author and middle author publications with very few last author publications. A year after the receipt of the K99 award, the number of first author publications per year begins to drop while the number of last author publications grows. This increase in last author publications is associated with an increase in the average number of total publications per year. Note that the dotted lines leading to 2014 results reflects that fact that the data do not include all publications for calendar year 2014.

These data reflect the full cohort of 2007 K99 awardees for which reliable publication data were compiled without regard to the year that each investigator transitioned to the R00 phase. The data separated according to R00 groups, with 50 investigators who received R00 awards in FY2007 or FY2008, 63 investigators who received R00 awards in FY2009, and 19 investigators who received R00 awards in FY2010 or later, are shown in the plot below:

Pubs-R00 year-First,Last-3

Again, as anticipated, the transition from first author publications to last author publications occurs earliest for the 2007,8 R00 cohort, later for the 2009 R00 cohort, and latest for the 2010,11 R00 cohort.

In addition, the first plot includes both investigators who have been successful in obtain R01s or similar awards from NIH as well as those who have not. These results for these two groups are shown below:

Pubs-R01-NoR01 plot

The number of first author publications appears to be slightly higher  for those who have received R01s than for those who have not. The number of  last author and other publications is higher for those who have received R01s after receiving the K99 awards, but this likely largely a consequence of the science performed with the supports of the R01 support.

11 responses so far

  • The sole author publications must all be reviews.

  • lurker says:

    The investigators Not getting R01s are also almost as productive as the ones getting R01s, but they are getting hamstrung by the randomness of the grant review process. The system is screwed up when half of a cohort is eexcluded by bad random review and not because these investigators can't produce.

    • datahound says:

      There is no doubt that there is a substantial amount of randomness in the current system. However, one should not lose sight of the fact that counting publications is a limited measure of scientific merit. One would have to look more carefully at the individuals and their science before coming to strong conclusions.

    • E rook says:

      I interpret this differently. The period from 07 to 11, those receiving R01s had more last author pubs in each year. "Almost" may be a subjective term, but perhaps enough. I find this to be quite dismaying because, though I am an assistant prof, and I have had my own (2 yr) NIH grants, and I have "led" projects, the senior people in my group always get last authorship and I get first author, even if I am corresponding author on the pub. I considered adding a note explaining this in my biosketch, but it comes off as desperate pleading to me.

      • drugmonkey says:

        I would suggest if you are in this type of situation a note at the beginning of the pub list ("*indicates corresponding author") would go far and not seem too much like "desperate pleading".

  • lurker says:

    If counting publications is a limited measure of scientific merit, and you caution against coming to strong conclusions, why have you devoted a record number of distinct posts to counting number of pubs?

    • datahound says:

      I understand your point. Counting publications can be useful for benchmarking the behavior of populations, but is less useful for much less useful for outcomes for individual investigators. Again, I agree that the peer review system is being forced to try to make distinctions that are not realistic given the present circumstances. However, I do not think it is safe to conclude that there is little difference between the population of investigators who have succeeded in getting R01s funded and those who have not based on publication numbers alone. Further analysis is required to identify other factors that may be important.

  • E rook says:

    It is interesting that the time leading up to and following 2007, those who obtained R01s had more total pubs per year consistently (while the first author production rate is more similar --perhaps there's a ceiling which all K99Roo-ers has reached?), indicating potentially a larger contribution to their scientific network, or perhaps the existence of larger scientific networks. The question is whether this is from collaborating with other labs or working in a large one.

  • Ola says:

    An interesting trend in the 2nd graph (wonder if it will continue?) is that the 10-11 cohort (pink lines) exhibit the same if not faster drop off in first author papers, but a much slower ramp up in senior author publications, compared to the earlier cohorts. I wonder if this is in part due to post-recession downsizing of start-up packages, so they have fewer resources at their disposal?

    • datahound says:

      The data for the 10-11 cohort are fairly noisy since they reflect only 19 investigators. I would be careful not to try to over-interpret the results. However, I agree that it would be interesting to see data about start-up package size since these do represent a substantial percentage of resources available for many of these investigators over this time period. Unfortunately, I doubt those data could be obtained (at least easily).

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