I would like to refer to a mathematical construction by the names of its discoverers. The issue is that the same construction was discovered by two groups simultaneously, through quite different chains of reasoning. One paper has two authors and the other has five, so there are seven researchers involved in the discovery in total. Obviously I can't refer to it by all seven names, and I'm wondering if there's some other reasonable convention to follow instead.

So for example, if one paper is by A. Alpha and B. Beta, and the other is by G. Gamma, E. Epsilon, Z. Zeta, E. Eta and T. Theta, would it be reasonable to refer to it as the Alpha-Gamma construction, leaving off the names of the other authors? Or would I have to call it something more ad-hoc like AB-GEZET, after their initials?

If it makes a difference, the field is information theory, so I guess somewhere in the intersection between maths, computer science and data analysis. I'm confident that the authors are not listed alphabetically on either paper.

Also in case it makes a difference, the reasons I want to do this are

  • It's a solution to a fairly well-defined problem that a number of people have been working on for a while, and it's pretty non-trivial.
  • There are many other proposed solutions to the same problem, so it's handy to attach names to them in order to distinguish between them.
  • It seems like a nice thing to do for the researchers involved, at least one of whom spent their PhD on it.

1 Answer 1


I have heard (I'm not sure how official these things are) that in modern scientific fields people are trying to phase out naming things after the people involved, as it makes learning the subject difficult - remembering a set of random names that don't describe the things as against calling it by what it is or what it does.

So while this might seem like a nice thing to do for the scientists involved, it might make your work clearer and easier to understand if you just describe the thing (construction) and then mention or site the relevant authors.

E.g. the folding solution to the paper box problem presented by Dr. Origami et al. and Dr P. Airplane et al.

(Forgive my silly example, I have no experience of information theory and don't really know what a "construction" is in your terminology.)

  • I didn't mean "construction" as a technical term here, I just couldn't think of a better general term to describe a thing that one defines in order to solve a problem.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 12:31
  • 1
    Another reason to use the names is that I want to compare and contrast it with other groups' solutions. I guess I could just keep saying "Alpha et al. and Gamma et al.'s solution", but it's a bit long-winded. Maybe I'll just introduce some special notation for it instead.
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 12:34
  • Also I guess it would be "Alpha and Beta and Gamma et al's solution", since one of the papers has only two authors
    – N. Virgo
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 12:41
  • If I need to refer to a particular paper many times (I am comparing my method to theirs) the convention in my field is to take the first letter of author's names and the last digits of the year, or if their are many authors we would use the first author's initial. So in this case you would say something the first time you refer to them like this: "The solution of Alpha and Beta 2011 (hereafter AB11), also proposed by Gamma et al. 2009 (hereafter G09) shows that ..."
    – FJC
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 18:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .