Science of Success

The Chaperone Effect in Scientific Publishing


Experience plays a critical role in crafting high-impact scientific work. This is particularly evident in top multidisciplinary journals, where a scientist is unlikely to appear as senior author if he or she has not previously published within the same journal. Here, we develop a quantitative understanding of author order by quantifying this “chaperone effect,” capturing how scientists transition into senior status within a particular publication venue. We illustrate that the chaperone effect has a different magnitude for journals in different branches of science, being more pronounced in medical and biological sciences and weaker in natural sciences. Finally, we show that in the case of high-impact venues, the chaperone effect has significant implications, specifically resulting in a higher average impact relative to papers authored by new principal investigators (PIs). Our findings shed light on the role played by experience in publishing within specific scientific journals, on the paths toward acquiring the necessary experience and expertise, and on the skills required to publish in prestigious venues.


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