Authorship in the Medical Humanities: Breaking Cross-field Boundaries or Maintaining Disciplinary Divides?

  • Róisín King
  • Jana Al-Khabouri
  • Brendan Kelly
  • Desmond O’NeillEmail author



Medical humanities is a field which implies collaborative work across disciplines although the degree to which this actually occurs is unknown. Our purpose was to determine the degree of joint work in medical humanities through analysis of authorship and acknowledgements in the two main medical humanities journals.


Observational survey of authorship. We studied authorship data in all papers published in the two major general medical humanities journals between 2009 and 2018 (n=595).


Two-thirds of papers (67.4%) had single authors, of whom a majority declared a single disciplinary affiliation (70.3%). The titles of 60.8% of papers explicitly suggested collaborative content of which 19.9% had multiple authors from more than one discipline (not within the same school); of the remainder, almost half (48.1%) had a single, single-disciplinary author (although 8.5% demonstrated interdisciplinarity in the acknowledgements). One-third of papers (193/595;33%) referenced one or more people in the acknowledgements. Among papers whose titles suggested humanities or medical content only, authorship lists of 10.2% and 17.9% respectively demonstrated collaborative scholarship.


Despite considerable involvement from both humanities and medical practitioners, there is still substantial scope for enhanced emphasis on collaborative (multi-, inter- and trans-disciplinary) seminars and exchanges in the medical humanities and editorial policies to promote transparency of the nature of collaborative work among disciplines. Journal editors and editorial boards should reflect on the opportunity to promote enhanced visibility of joint work in scholarship in the medical humanities through reflection and review of current editorial policies.

Key words

Humanities Interdisciplinary studies Authorship Bibliometric analysis 



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of MedicineTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  3. 3.Centre for Ageing, Neuroscience and the Humanities, Trinity College Dublin, Trinity Centre for Health SciencesTallaght University HospitalDublinIreland

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