I'm a Phd student working in the areas of mathematical physics and biology. It is known that papers in pure and applied mathematics follow alphabetical ordering, and it does not matter if your name shows first or last. However, my supervisor told me that when it comes to particular areas of applied mathematics, such as mathematical physics or mathematical biology, there are as many authors who follow order by contributions as there are of those who follow alphabetical order. Based on these facts, my supervisor has told me that we will follow both approaches in our papers since ordering does not matter in mathematics anyway.

My name is ahead of my supervisor's alphabetically. However, for some papers, my supervisor was first. For other papers, I was first. This resulted in a mixed order in the publications listed on my CV. Does this alter its quality, meaning the recruiter will tend to not value papers in which I was a second author?

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    This depends on whether the recruiter is aware of conventions and cares enough to take them into account appropriately. Jun 29, 2023 at 18:31
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    On my CV, I don't list myself among the authors of a joint paper; since it's my CV, people understand that I'm an author of these papers. My format is "Title (with so-and-so) ...", where "so-and-so" stands for the list of the other authors, ordered as in the paper. Jun 29, 2023 at 18:42
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    @AndreasBlass Post your comment as an answer. Jun 30, 2023 at 0:20
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    @AndreasBlass This looks like a reasonable convention for fields where the ordering is usually alphabetic but seems like a very bad choice in fields where the order matters. In lab science there is a huge difference between first author papers and all other papers, if your CV deliberately hides that information that would almost certainly be seen as a negative.
    – quarague
    Jun 30, 2023 at 12:18

4 Answers 4


I am 15 years past my PhD, and work in the same areas: Applied Mathematics, Mathematical Physics, and Computational Chemistry.

On my CV, I list papers as "Title, Journal (with Co-Authors in alphabetical order)". I also add a link to AMS Culture statement to explain why the author's list is alphabetical.

However, I must add, that the struggle is real, as this problem still bites me occasionally, when people casually ask me why all my papers are rarely first-authored, or make vague comments implying my application to X was not successful because my publication track may not be recognised by people from certain areas.

  • It sounds as though all your papers use alphabetical ordering, which is not the situation OP is asking about. (Or do you really list co-authors alphabetically even when that is not the order they appear on the paper?) Jul 1, 2023 at 13:32
  • @EspeciallyLime I usually write with 1 or 2 co-authors. Jul 1, 2023 at 18:10

I suggest making two different lists of publications:

  • one of publications that follow the alphabetical order (math. physics, I suppose)
  • and one where the first authorship shows who actually did all the work matters (biology, I suppose).

You can add an explanation to the first category, explaining the authorship conventions in mathematics.


Many people working in applied mathematics (myself includes) use non-alphabetical author order -- and everyone in mathematics departments knows that that is common.

In practice, this means that when you are first author on a non-alphabetical author list, you get a minor bonus by people reading your CV. And that you get a minor malus (negative bonus) for those where you are not. For papers with alphabetically ordered author lists, nobody knows the better, and so you get an average weight.

In the end, it's not likely not matter very much overall one way the other. You can probably guard against ignorants by adding a note at the top of your list of publications saying that author order of your publications follows the convention of the field you are publishing in for any given paper, which may or may not be alphabetical.


One option which seems workable to me is a variation on Andreas Blass' comment. List all your publications chronologically as (with X, Y, Z...), but

  • have some clear way of indicating which papers for which you are first author (or joint first author), and
  • have a different way of indicating papers that do not have a "first author".

Obviously the meanings of the symbols you use for this should be clearly set out above the list of papers.

I am assuming first author vs not is much more important than your exact position, but in some fields in might also be worth distinguishing "last author".

I should say that I am not really in this position, since I have very few papers in authors-by-contribution fields and am not first author on any of those. So I don't bother distinguishing them.

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