Taylor Swift and co-author synergy

This article is an expanded version of a twitter “essay” I wrote a few months ago. If you are interested, you can find the original here: https://twitter.com/WBLievers/status/834396497793974272.


Image by Eva Rinaldi via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It began —as a great many things do— with Taylor Swift. I was scanning the references in an old paper when two names leapt off the page.

I found myself wondering, “Did Taylor & Swift ever write a paper together?” and was soon overcome with that intense curiosity that only occurs when you’re supposed to be doing something else. So I started searching. Sure enough, there was indeed a Taylor-Swift paper… albeit with a different pair of authors. Sadly, it was not published in 1989.

This experience set me looking for other examples of what I’ll term co-author synergy, an ordering of surnames that, when cited, results in an humorous or entertaining effect. This is not a new phenomenon. The most famous example is the Alpher-Bethe-Gamow (αβγ) paper from 1948. Indeed, Hans Bethe was only added as a co-author because of the whimsical effect his inclusion would create.

On rare occasions the synergy expands beyond just the co-authors to include the topic on which they have written. The Homer-Simpson perspective on childhood obesity, the Sun-Shine paper in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, and the guns & drugs paper (Smith & Wesson, “Cocaine”) are some of my favorite examples.

The table below summarizes the examples of co-author synergy that I’ve been able to identify. Click on the author names to see a portion of the title page or follow the links to the original articles. It is not an exhaustive list, so please share other examples you’ve encountered.

Authors Reference
Alpher-Bethe-Gamow Alpher Bethe H, Gamow G. The origin of chemical elements. Physical Review 73(7): 803-804, 1948. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.73.803
Bacon & Ham Bacon AK, Ham LS. Attention to social threat as a vulnerability to the development of comorbid social anxiety disorder and alcohol use disorders: an avoidance-coping cognitive model. Addictive Behaviors 35(11):925-939, 2010. doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.06.002
Barnes & Noble Barnes GG, Noble P. Deprivation and drug addiction: a study of a vulnerable sub-group. British Journal of Social Work 2(3): 299-311, 1972. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.bjsw.a056322
Batt-Mann Batt RM, Mann LC. Specificity of the BT-PABA test for the diagnosis of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in the dog. Veterinary Record 108(14): 303-307, 1981. doi:10.1093/10.1136/vr.108.14.303
Butt-Head Butt G, Head R. Development of a prototype treatment works management based on real-time process simulation. Water Science & Technology: Water Supply 2(1): 81-86, 2002. url:http://ws.iwaponline.com/content/2/1/81
D'Eath & Payne D’Eath PD, Payne PN. Gravitational radiation in black-hole collisions at the speed of light. I. Perturbation treatment of the axisymmetric collision. Physical Review D 46(2): 658-674, 1992. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.46.658
Green-Field Green JP, Field J. Assessment between species: information gathering in usurpation contests between a paper wasp and its social parasite. Animal Behaviour 81(6): 1263-1269, 2011. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2011.03.015
Hall & Oates Hall S, Oates RD. Unilateral absence of the scrotal vas deferens associated with contralateral mesonephric duct anomalies resulting in infertility: laboratory, physical and radiographic findings, and therapeutic alternatives. Journal of Urology 150(4): 1161-1164, 1993. url:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8371379
Homer-Simpson Homer C, Simpson LA. Childhood obesity: What’s health care policy got to do with it? Health Affairs 26(20):441-444, 2007. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.26.2.441
James-Bond James TC, Bond U. Molecular mimics of the tumour antigen MUC1. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49728, 2012. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049728
McGraw-Hill McGraw KJ, Hill GE. Carotenoid access and intraspecific variation in plumage pigmentation in male American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) and Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis). Functional Ecology 15(6): 732-739, 2001. doi:10.1046/j.0269-8463.2001.00574.x
Poole-Hall Poole B, Hall JW. Turbulence measurements in a corner wall jet. Journal of Fluids Engineering 138(8): 081204, 2016. doi:10.1115/1.4033032
Rayne‑Forest Rayne S, Forest K. Perfluoroalkyl sulfonic and carboxylic acids: A critical review of physicochemical properties, levels and patterns in waters and wastewaters, and treatment methods. Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A 44:12: 1145-1199, 2009. doi:10.1080/10934520903139811
Smith & Wesson Smith DE, Wesson DR. Cocain. Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 10(4): 351-360, 1978. doi:10.1080/02791072.1978.10471539
Sun-Burns Sun GR, Burns M. Progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis: a rare cause of cirrhosis in young adult patients. Case Reports in Medicine 428638, 2015. doi:10.1155/2015/428638
Sun-Shine Sun Z, Shine KP. Studies of the radiative properties of ice and mixed-phase clouds. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 120(515): 111-137, 1994. doi:10.1002/qj.49712051508
Taylor‑Swift Taylor BW, Swift HE. The addition of hydrogen cyanide to α-olefins catalyzed by nickel(0) complexes. Journal of Catalysis 26(2): 254-260, 1972. doi:10.1016/0021-9517(72)90057-7
Wild-West Wild G, West SA. A sex allocation theory for vertebrates: combining local resource competition and condition‐dependent allocation. The American Naturalist 170(5): E112-E128, 2007. doi:10.1086/522057
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