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Certified Random: A New Order for Coauthorship


  • Debraj Ray
  • Arthur Robson


Alphabetical name order is the norm for joint publications in economics. However, alphabetical order confers greater benefits on the first author. In a two-author model, we introduce and study certified random order: the uniform randomization of names made universally known by a commonly understood symbol. Certified random order (i) distributes the gain from first authorship evenly over the alphabet; (ii) allows either author to signal when contributions are extremely unequal; (iii) will invade an environment where alphabetical order is dominant; (iv) is robust to deviations; (v) may be ex ante more efficient than alphabetical order; and (vi) is no more complex than the existing alphabetical system modified by occasional reversal of name order.

Suggested Citation

  • Debraj Ray & Arthur Robson, 2018. "Certified Random: A New Order for Coauthorship," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(2), pages 489-520, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:108:y:2018:i:2:p:489-520
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20161492

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Liran Einav & Leeat Yariv, 2006. "What's in a Surname? The Effects of Surname Initials on Academic Success," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 175-187, Winter.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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