Authorship of Academic Papers
Carrying out research studies and then writing up the research results often involve many participants. Some (or all) of these may be considered to be ‘authors’ and appear in the list of authors connected with the final paper, but it is important to think about who actually constitutes an ‘author’ (rather than, for example, a ‘guarantor’ or adviser).
Identification and validation of the authors’ identities are very important factors to demonstrate that the paper itself truly reflects the work of the people whose names are associated with it.
Let us look at some of the important considerations when thinking about authorship.
1. List of authors
Authorship, and the order in which the authors appear, should be decided before work starts on the paper write-up, but with the understanding that this could change (depending on the involvement in practice of the various participants).
2. What defines an ‘author role’?
The ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) provides some guidelines as follows:
Although these apply to medicine, the principles about author roles are also relevant to other disciplines.
- Only those with substantial intellectual contributions or who have written the manuscript should be included as an author.
- Entering patients for study or providing funding or administrative oversight are not sufficient for authorship; instead these contributions should appear in the Acknowledgment section.
- Acquisition of funding, collection of data, or general supervision of the research group alone does not constitute authorship.
If someone other than the authors, such as a science writer or corporate employee (including pharma representatives), has participated in writing the paper, this participation must be disclosed.
3. Authorship by a committee
- If a multicenter group conducted the research, the group should identify a writing committee that accepts direct responsibility for the manuscript.
- The committee should fully meet the criteria for authorship / contributorship defined by ICMJE (for medicine).
- It is likely that journal editors will ask committee authors to complete journal-specific author and conflict-of-interest disclosure forms.
- When submitting a manuscript authored by a group, the corresponding author should clearly indicate the preferred citation and identify all individual authors as well as the group name. (Others should be listed in Acknowledgments.)
4. International conventions on the order of authors
- The person who does the most work goes first
- After that, names are in order of greatest contribution
- Head of group/Director goes last
- Person who must approve the work
- Person who provided the grant money
- Person who guided the project
- Honorary or gift authorship not accepted
5. The ‘corresponding author’
- Is responsible for the manuscript as it moves through the entire publication process
- Acts as ‘time keeper’ during each phase
- Serves as the primary contact between the journal and all the other authors of the paper
- Is responsible for ensuring that all authors have reviewed and approved the final version of the manuscript prior to submission
- Uploads the manuscript to the online submission site
- Distributes communications from the journal (e.g. decision letters, reviewers’ reports)
- Ensures journal requirements are met:
· distributes copyright forms and makes sure everyone returns them on time
· distributes proofs for checking
· responds to questions
6. Who should be ‘acknowledged’?
This generally refers to people who:
- Provided technical assistance to the authors
- Discussed your ideas with you and the authors and gave advice
- Read early drafts of the paper and gave feedback
People who were the subject of the study
7. Authorship disclosure and conflict of interest declarations.
Journals will generally expect authors to adhere to strict policies and sign documentation pertaining to authorship and declaration about any conflicts of interest. Again, ICMJE provides useful information about the latter:
It is very important to be ‘transparent’ and declare any possible conflicts of interest.
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