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Understanding Author Affiliation and accurately mentioning it in different scenarios

In academic publishing, the affiliation of an author is the place (institution) at which the author conducted the research that they have reported / written about. However, given the frequent mobility of academics, that place may not necessarily be the place the author happens to be based at the time of submitting the paper. This article explains the significance of affiliation and illustrates how to accurately mention your affiliation in different scenarios.

The importance of affiliation

In some cases, affiliation is linked to authenticity. Imagine a research paper on field pollination of rice by an author whose affiliation is that of an institute in the polar region. It is not that this work cannot be done, but it would seem incongruous and may raise doubts.

In many cases, it is a matter of prestige. Science may be democratic, but not all research institutions and laboratories are considered equal.

Some may be better equipped than others.

Some may have more luminaries on their staff – people who have outstanding work (or even prizes) to their credit.

Some may have enviable collections of records or research material. 

Therefore, by proxy, work carried out at those institutions is regarded more highly, at least initially, than that carried out at lesser-known institutions.

A study by Peters and Ceci (1982) found that when 12 already published papers were resubmitted after doctoring the affiliations to replace the original high-status institutions with fictitious ones with no status in the field, eight of those papers were rejected.

Mentioning your affiliation in a paper

In nearly all published papers, affiliations of their authors are given after their names but before the abstract. The typical sequence is: 

  1. Title of the paper
  2. Names of authors
  3. Affiliations
  4. Abstract and keywords

Paper with title, author names, affiliation, abstract and keywords

Mentioning affiliation and address

Authors of research papers must keep an important distinction in mind: that an affiliation is not the same thing as a mailing address. The former names the institution at which the work in question was carried out whereas the latter simply supplies the current contact details of the author. 

For example…

A PhD candidate submitting a paper based on their doctoral work should name, as their affiliation, the university/institution that is granting them the doctorate. However, that author may have since moved to another institution for a post-doctoral job. This is not considered their affiliation, but just provides their current contact details.

Therefore, you may have to name two institutions in your manuscript: 

  • Under Affiliation: Name the institution where the work (that forms the subject of the present study) was undertaken.
  • Under Current address: Name the institution at which you happen to be working at the time of submission or even your home address if you have retired. 

Note: The ‘current address’ serves as the means of contact and can change; the affiliation cannot. 

Mentioning affiliation when you change your institute

It may also happen that when you submitted the paper, you were stationed at Institute A and accordingly gave that as your contact address, and subsequently, you moved to Institute B. In such cases, so long as your paper is yet to be published, you should inform the journal of your new current address at Institute B. The paper is based on the work you carried out while you were based at institute A, which constitutes the affiliation and remains unchanged.

Mentioning affiliations for multi-author papers

Most research papers have multiple authors and not all of them may have the same affiliation. To match their names to their affiliations, journals may use the method used for indicating footnotes. The names of authors are followed by superscript letters, numerals or other symbols, and the same symbols precede the respective affiliations.

We recommend: Note the journal’s preferred method (letters, numerals or other symbols) and be sure to follow the journal guidelines when preparing your manuscripts for submission.

Numerals indicating authors (above) and their affiliations (below) in a paper

Dealing with affiliations during peer review

To avoid the kind of bias mentioned earlier, affiliation information is removed in manuscripts sent out for review: in a blind review, the reviewers do not know who wrote the paper under review, nor their institutional affiliation. To make this easier, many journals ask that such identifying information be separated from the body of the paper. Authors are advised to attend to the journal’s instructions in this regard, which typically involve a separate title page explicitly showing the names and affiliations. This page is usually removed before sending the paper to reviewers.


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