Themes

Standards of authorship

What is this about?

This page describes how credit is allocated when researchers collaborate on publications.

Why is this important?

Collaborations are more frequent and publications are a key source of academic credit and career advancement. It is increasingly important to allocate credit for contributions to research in a fair and transparent way.

The UK Research Integrity Office outlines why authorship standards matter:

“Correct authorship of research publications matters because authorship confers credit, carries responsibility, and readers should know who has done the research. Denying authorship to somebody who deserves it denies recognition and academic credit since publications are used to assess academic productivity. Including an undeserving author is unfair since this person gets credit for work they have not done. Omitting a deserving author from an author also list misleads readers (including journal editors) and may mask conflicts of interest.” (1).

For whom is this important?

What are the best practices?

Difficulties

Authorship issues are still controversial. Common practises varying between scientific disciplines, and between countries. They are also changing over time. As the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences note:

“Customs have changed over the past few decades; for example, the practice of granting “honorary” authorship to an eminent researcher – formerly not unusual – is no longer considered acceptable.” (2).

Finally, there are separate best practices for authors and for editors.

European Code of Conduct

The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity (2017) states several important considerations regarding authorship. This includes authors being responsible for publications, agreeing on the order of authorship, acknowledging all those who collaborated and disclosing conflict of interest.

COPE

  • COPE’s “How to handle authorship disputes: a guide for new researchers” can be found here.
  • COPE also has guidelines for how editors should handle authorship issues.

References

1. Wager E. Good practice in research: Authorship. UK Research Integrity Office 2017 March.

2. Hess CW, Brückner C, Kaiser T, Mauron A, Wahli W, Wenzel UJ, et al. Authorship in scientific publications: analysis and recommendations. Swiss medical weekly 2015;145.


Resources

Bates, T., Anić, A., Marušić, M., & Marušić, A. (2004). Authorship Criteria and Disclosure of Contributions: Comparison of 3 General Medical Journals with Different Author Contribution Forms. JAMA, 292(1), 86–88. doi:10.1001/jama.292.1.86

Marušić, A., Bošnjak, L., & Jerončić, A. (2011). A Systematic Review of Research on the Meaning, Ethics and Practices of Authorship across Scholarly Disciplines. PLOS ONE, 6(9), e23477. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023477