I’ve often wondered if there was an “ideal” sort of first author to middle author ratio that tenure track search committees consider in evaluating candidates. It seems to be that about a 1:1 ratio would be considered approximately “ideal”. Considering the two extremes: 1) it would be a bit bizarre if someone was first author on every paper, suggesting perhaps that they are not good at working with others. 2) Of course, no first author papers would suggest that the candidate was not spearheading the research (and would probably not have a well written research statement either I imagine). So a 50/50 balance would perhaps be indicative of both an ability to collaborate along with an ability to advance one’s own ideas. Or perhaps I’m reading into this too much.
Of course, this would really only apply to graduate students and postdocs. Perhaps a similar sort of “statistic” would be useful for PIs in which it was a ratio of first:middle:last author (or whatever is the appropriate convention for senior scientists in the field). I’ve noticed some PIs have a ton of middle author papers, much moreso than last author papers.
I’m pretty close to the 1:1 ratio and am trying to work hard to keep it that way. Just a thought as one thing (of many) to keep in mind as I try and position myself to one day apply for tenure track jobs.