Authorship is the most visible form of credit in publications, but there is also credit in the form of acknowledgements or appropriate reference citations. The framework of research depends in part on the ability of institutions, policy makers, and the public to identify who is responsible for the work and its interpretation. Furthermore, authorship and credit influence decisions regarding the allocation of resources, as well as help to define intellectual property rights.
Other than copyright law and federal definitions of research misconduct, nearly all aspects of authorship and publication are covered only by guidelines and unspoken custom.
Principles of Authorship
- The credit of authorship is accompanied by responsibility for the work being published. All authors must assure that the studies and findings have been represented truthfully.
- Authorship is an important sign to others in the scientific community. Institutions, funding agencies, and fellow researchers assess the author in light of his/her publications.
- The criteria for authorship should apply equally to everyone involved in the work. There should be clear criteria for authorship in a research endeavor. Because authorship is a matter of public credit and responsibility, everyone who meets the established criteria should be included as authors.
Methods of assigning authorship vary greatly in academia, even within the same institution or discipline. In some research groups, decisions about authorship are made solely at the discretion of the principal investigator, while in others decisions are made collectively by all who have had a significant role in the project. Although criteria may vary, an author ought to at least minimally to have:
- made a substantial and new contribution to the reasearch.
- drafted the article or revised it critically for important intellectual content.
- agreed to take responsibility for at least some of the content of the manuscript, including review of the relevant raw data.
- approved of the final version to be published.
- agreed to be named as an author.
Because criteria for authorship are not universally accepted, authorship is a frequent cause of disputes among researchers. It is important to discuss plans and criteria for authorship during the planning of any collaboration, and to continue such discussion as the research project evolves.
Many elements essential for a publication should be credited, but do not warrant authorship. Authors have the ethical responsibility to acknowledge all of those who made the research and manuscript possible. Because agreement with the contents of a manuscript might be inferred, anyone who is acknowledged should have given his/her permission to be listed.