I've noticed several instances of papers in mathematics which include an appendix written by someone who is not among the authors of the main body of the paper (for instance, here).

I'm quite curious about this practice (I don't have a practical reason for asking, except for wanting to understand academic environment a little better). Specifically:

  1. What's the motivation for the authors to for this kind of partition? It seems that it would be entirely within the ethical and cultural norms to simply write a joint paper, or to write two independent papers. Joint paper seems like a much easier option, two disjoint papers is simpler and more clear cut (and a cynical person might add - produces more citations).

  2. For the sake of keeping track of publications (for the sake of CV, citation counts, etc.) does the author of an appendix count as being one of the authors of the paper, not being among the authors of the paper, or being the sole author of the appendix which counts as an independent publication?

1 Answer 1


1) The results of an appendix are usually much less significant than the results of the main paper. It usually would not be within the cultural norms to produce a joint paper, because the authors of the appendix did not actually contribute to the important parts of the paper; in mathematics, a 3%-5% contribution doesn't usually warrant adding an author to a 2 or 3 author paper. It would be possible to publish the appendix separately, but only in a bottom-tier journal that accepts any contribution that is correct and not plagiarized (or at least a much less well-regarded journal), at which point the appendix may very well get more attention attached to a somewhat important paper rather than buried in some obscure journal. Also, producing a separate paper is more work, because the authors would need to write an introduction, set notation, restate the results of the main paper, and so on.

2) Only idiots care about these counts. If an insignificant contribution of the kind you would put in an appendix actually matters for your career, you're doing quite poorly as a research mathematician. (Exception: sometimes a top mathematician will write an appendix whose contents would be considered significant if produced by me but are still rather insignificant in the context of their work.) If your university gives you a raise or a bonus per paper, they are idiots, and you should discuss with your dean beforehand how an appendix will be treated.

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    "Only idiots care about these counts. [...] they are idiots [...]" - You should rephrase these sentences... Especially since this does not answer his second questions at all.
    – J-Kun
    Jan 28, 2018 at 14:31
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    "Only idiots care about these counts": Do you realize that in certain countries (not too few, actually), like it or not, among those idiots there are governments that on the basis of those counts decide career progresses, university funding etc? And that you cannot discuss the point with anyone?
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Jan 28, 2018 at 14:34
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    2) As pointed out in other comments - that's a pretty strong wording... I'm not really asking whether writing appendices to people's papers will further one's academic career (which is the question which you seem to be answering). I'm just curious about how various practical (and arguably trivial) matters are handled in this situation. Jan 28, 2018 at 15:15
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    @MassimoOrtolano: The mathematical community should conspire against these governments by creating silly authorships. If I were in a situation where it mattered, I would gladly add X as an author, and put at the end of the introduction "X was responsible only for section A, which we would normally consider an appendix with X as the author, but we have included X as an author for this paper since is government/university gives her (department) $3K for every paper." Jan 28, 2018 at 17:40
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    Alexander, many scientific communities try to fight every day against such evaluation practices (which can also lead to bad scientific practices like the creation of citation rings), with newspaper articles, actions against the government etc. Do you really think that your proposal would have any effect apart from making a few people laugh? Without offense, but you probably have a limited view of the global academic world: please, don't be simplistic.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Jan 28, 2018 at 18:08

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