Credit where it’s due in AI – capsule networks

In the past few weeks my social feeds have been littered with articles citing “Hinton’s latest breakthrough” in AI: capsule networks.  Like most people in the field, I make sure I read up on what’s new, and I’m yet to see the paper‘s first author Sara Sabour, get credit for her work in all of the tertiary reviews.

A somewhat irreverent take on author list from PHD Comics, although this is broadly true 😉

For those who aren’t in academia, there is a distinct order to the names on published papers either by contribution or alphabetically.  For contribution, the first author is the one who actually did the research, the last author is the person who runs the lab/department and any other names are listed in order of contribution.  Occasionally you will see notes that authors contributed equally.  Some subject or countries list names alphabetically, but this is not the case for this paper published on arxiv.

I’ve spoken before on how much I hate other people getting credit for my work.  This was one of the reasons I decided to leave academia.  I didn’t want people who’d just proof-read my work getting this added to their list of papers as a second or third author.  I believe in giving credit where it’s due and not taking credit where I don’t deserve it.  Maybe I could have made a bigger name for myself by taking a different approach.  While people don’t have the same ethics then meritocracy doesn’t work.  I’ve left two companies because individuals have claimed that something I’d researched, planned, managed, developed and launched was all their idea despite joining the project after an initial proof of concept1.

In this specific instance, I think the problem is that “Hinton” is a name most people with some knowledge of the subject recognise, rather than deliberate taking of credit, so people trying to get clicks at the expense of accuracy2. I also have no doubt that he contributed rather than just adding his name to the paper. But it is lazy article writing to ignore Sara Sabour and indeed Nicholas Frosst as second author.  Indeed, the author of the Medium article I read most recently about this hadn’t even read the paper3 and was making sweeping statements from other summaries about Hinton’s discovery.  However, it doesn’t help that yet again an upcoming and accomplished female scientist has been completely side-lined.

Please, look at the first author of a paper and give them the credit that they deserve.



  1. I will get around to writing a book of my experiences as a woman in tech at some point – there’s a lot of funny stories there 🙂
  2. Please Google – can you build an AI ranking engine that doesn’t work from clicks or shares but factual content – it’s the only way to stop this 😀
  3. Seriously, read what you are talking about

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Dr Janet is a Molecular Biochemistry graduate from Oxford University with a doctorate in Computational Neuroscience from Sussex. I’m currently studying for a third degree in Mathematics with Open University. During the day, and sometimes out of hours, I work as a Chief Science Officer. You can read all about that on my LinkedIn page.