Apropos of et al

I have 111 MathSciNet reviews posted, and there are three more articles on my desk that I should be reviewing instead of blogging. Even though I think of canceling my AMS membership, I don’t mind helping the society pay their bills (MathSciNet brings about 37% of the AMS revenue, according to their 2010-11 report.)

Sure, reviews need to be edited, especially when written by non-native English speakers like myself. Still, I’m unhappy with the edited version of my recent review:

This was the approach taken in the foundational paper by J. Heinonen et al. [J. Anal. Math. 85 (2001), 87-139]

The paper was written by J. Heinonen, P. Koskela, N. Shanmugalingam, and J. T. Tyson. Yes, it’s four names. Yes, the 14-letter name is not easy to pronounce without practice. But does the saving of 45 bytes justify omitting the names of people who spent many months, if not years, working on the paper? Absolutely not. The tradition of using “et al” for papers with more than 3 authors belongs to the age of typewriters.

P.S. I don’t think MathSciNet editors read my blog, so I emailed them.

P.P.S. The names are now restored. In the future I’ll be sure to add in “comments to the editor” that names should not be replaced by et al.

2 thoughts on “Apropos of et al”

  1. I wonder if this practice leads to any measurable difference in the distribution of last names in the sciences (reasoning that those with last names starting with “A” will have more name recognition than those whose last names start with “Z”). Rice’s department (leaving out post docs) has 14 profs whose last name is A-J, and 6 with last name K-Z. Using the data linked below, one would expect the split to be 48% A-J, 52% K-Z, though this is a very small data set.

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