Academic authorship
Academic authorship of journal articles, books and other original works is a means by which academics communicate the results of their scholarly work, establish priority
Scientific priority
In science, priority is the claim and recognition of first discovery or theory. Fame and honors usually go to the first person or group to publish a new finding, even if several researchers arrived at the same conclusion independently and at the same time....

 for their discoveries, and build their reputation among their peers. Authorship is a primary basis on which many academics are evaluated for employment, promotion, and tenure
Tenure commonly refers to life tenure in a job and specifically to a senior academic's contractual right not to have his or her position terminated without just cause.-19th century:...

. In academic publishing
Academic publishing
Academic publishing describes the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in journal article, book or thesis form. The part of academic written output that is not formally published but merely printed up or posted is often called...

, authorship of a work is claimed by those making intellectual contributions to the completion of the research
Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

 described in the work. In simple cases, a solitary scholar carries out a research project and writes the subsequent article or book. In many disciplines, however, collaboration
Collaboration is working together to achieve a goal. It is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals, — for example, an intriguing endeavor that is creative in nature—by sharing...

 is the norm and issues of authorship can be controversial. In these contexts, authorship can encompass activities other than writing the article; a researcher who comes up with an experimental design and analyzes the data may be considered an author, even if he had little role in composing the text describing the results. According to some standards, even writing the entire article would not constitute authorship unless the writer was also involved in at least one other phase of the project.

What constitutes authorship?

Guidelines for assigning authorship vary between institution
An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given human community...

s and disciplines. They may be formally defined or simply cultural custom. Incorrect application of authorship rules occasionally leads to charges of academic misconduct
Academic dishonesty
Academic dishonesty or academic misconduct is any type of cheating that occurs in relation to a formal academic exercise. It can include* Plagiarism: The adoption or reproduction of original creations of another author without due acknowledgment.* Fabrication: The...

 and sanctions for the violator. A 2002 survey of a large sample of researchers who had received funding from the U.S. National Institutes of Health
National Institutes of Health
The National Institutes of Health are an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and are the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research. Its science and engineering counterpart is the National Science Foundation...

 revealed that 10% of respondents claimed to have inappropriately assigned authorship credit within the last three years. This was the first large scale survey concerning such issues. In other fields only limited or no empirical data is available.

Authorship in the Natural Sciences

The natural sciences have no universal standard for authorship, but some major multi-disciplinary journals
Academic journal
An academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research...

 and institutions have established guidelines for work that they publish. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, usually referred to as PNAS, is the official journal of the United States National Academy of Sciences...

(PNAS) has an editorial policy that specifies "authorship should be limited to those who have contributed substantially to the work" and furthermore, "authors are strongly encouraged to indicate their specific contributions" as a footnote
A note is a string of text placed at the bottom of a page in a book or document or at the end of a text. The note can provide an author's comments on the main text or citations of a reference work in support of the text, or both...

. The American Chemical Society
American Chemical Society
The American Chemical Society is a scientific society based in the United States that supports scientific inquiry in the field of chemistry. Founded in 1876 at New York University, the ACS currently has more than 161,000 members at all degree-levels and in all fields of chemistry, chemical...

 further specifies that authors are those who also "share responsibility and accountability for the results" and the U.S. National Academies
United States National Academies
The United States National Academies comprises four organizations:* National Academy of Sciences * National Academy of Engineering * Institute of Medicine * National Research Council...

 specify "an author who is willing to take credit for a paper must also bear responsibility for its contents. Thus, unless a footnote or the text of the paper explicitly assigns responsibility for different parts of the paper to different authors, the authors whose names appear on a paper must share responsibility for all of it."

Authorship in Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science

In mathematics, the authors are usually listed in alphabetical order (this is the so-called Hardy-Littlewood Rule).
This usage is described in the Information Statements on the Culture of Research and Scholarship in Mathematics section of the American Mathematical Society website
, in the 2004 statement: Joint Research and Its Publication

Authorship in Medicine

In the medical field, authorship is defined very narrowly. According to the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals
Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals
The Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals is a set of guidelines produced by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, for standardising the ethics, preparation and formatting of manuscripts submitted for publication by biomedical journals...

, in order to be considered an author, one must have satisfied all three conditions:
  1. Contributed substantially to the conception and design of the study, the acquisition of data, or the analysis and interpretation
  2. Drafting or providing critical revision of the article,and
  3. Provided final approval of the version to be published

The acquisition of funding, or general supervision of the research group alone does not constitute authorship. Many medical journals have abandoned the strict notion of author, with the flexible notion of contributor.

Authorship in the Social Sciences

The American Psychological Association
American Psychological Association
The American Psychological Association is the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the United States. It is the world's largest association of psychologists with around 154,000 members including scientists, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. The APA...

 (APA) has similar guidelines as medicine for authorship. The APA acknowledge that authorship is not limited to the writing of manuscripts, but must include those who have made substantial contributions to a study such as "formulating the problem or hypothesis, structuring the experimental design, organizing and conducting the statistical analysis, interpreting the results, or writing a major portion of the paper" While the APA guidelines list many other forms of contributions to a study that do not constitute authorship, it does state that combinations of these and other tasks may justify authorship. Like medicine, the APA considers institutional position, such as Department Chair, insufficient for attributing authorship.

Authorship in the Humanities

Neither the Modern Languages Association nor the Chicago Manual of Style define requirements for authorship.

Growing number of authors per paper

From the late 17th century to the 1920s, sole authorship was the norm, and the one-paper-one-author model worked well for distributing credit. Today, shared authorship is common in most academic disciplines, with the exception of the humanities, where sole authorship is still the predominant model. In particular types of research, including particle physics, genome sequencing and clinical trials, a paper's author list can run into the hundreds. In large, multi-center clinical trials authorship is often used as a reward for recruiting patients. A paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993 reported on a clinical trial conducted in 1,081 hospitals in 15 different countries, involving a total of 41,021 patients. There were 972 authors listed in an appendix and authorship was assigned to a group. In the summer of 2008, an article in high-energy physics was published describing the Large Hadron Collider
Large Hadron Collider
The Large Hadron Collider is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It is expected to address some of the most fundamental questions of physics, advancing the understanding of the deepest laws of nature....

, a 27 mile long particle accelerator that crosses the Swiss-French border; the article boasts 2,926 authors from 169 research institutions.

Long author lists strain guidelines that insist that each author's role be described and that each author is responsible for the validity of the whole work. One Big Science facility, the Collider Detector at Fermilab
Collider Detector at Fermilab
The Collider Detector at Fermilab experimental collaboration studies high energy particle collisions at the Tevatron,the world's former highest-energy particle accelerator...

 (CDF), in 1998 adopted a highly unorthodox policy for assigning authorship. CDF maintains a standard author list. All scientists and engineers working at CDF are added to the standard author list after one year of full time work; names stay on the list until one year after the worker leaves CDF. Every publication coming out of CDF uses the entire standard author list, in alphabetical order. Such a system treats authorship more as credit for scientific service at the facility in general rather that as an identification of specific contributions.

Large authors lists have attracted some criticism. One commentator wrote, "In more than 25 years working as a scientific editor ... I have not been aware of any valid argument for more than three authors per paper, although I recognize that this may not be true for every field." The rise of shared authorship has been attributed to Big Science
Big Science
Big Science is a term used by scientists and historians of science to describe a series of changes in science which occurred in industrial nations during and after World War II, as scientific progress increasingly came to rely on large-scale projects usually funded by national governments or groups...

 -- scientific experiments that require collaboration and specialization of many individuals.

Alternatively, the increase in multi-authorship might be a consequence in which scientists are evaluated. Traditionally, scientists were evaluated by the number of papers they published, and later by the impact of those papers. The former is an estimate of quantity and the latter of quality. Both methods were adequate when single authorship was the norm, but vastly inflate individual contribution when papers are multi-authored. When each author claims each paper and each citation as his/her own, papers and citations are magically multiplied by the number of authors. Furthermore, there is no cost to giving authorship to invidivuals who made only minor contribution and there is an incentive to do so. Hence, the system rewards heavily multi-authored papers. This problem is openly acknowledged, and it could easily be "corrected" by dividing each paper and its citations by the number of authors.

Finally, the rise in shared authorship may also reflect increased acknowledgment of the contributions of lower level workers, including graduate students and technicians, as well as honorary authorship.

Honorary authorship

Honorary authorship is sometimes granted to those who played no significant role in the work, for a variety of reasons. Until recently, it was standard for the head of a German department or institution to be listed as an author on a paper regardless of input. The United States National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

, however, warns that such practices "dilute the credit due the people who actually did the work, inflate the credentials of those so 'honored,' and make the proper attribution of credit more difficult." The extent to which honorary authorship still occurs is not empirically known. However, it is plausible to expect that it is still widespread, because senior scientists leading large research groups can receive much of their reputation from a long publication list and thus have little motivation to give up honorary authorships.

A possible measure against honorary authorships has been implemented by some scientific journals, in particular by the Nature journals. They demand that each new manuscript must include a statement of responsibility that specifies the contribution of every author. The level of detail varies between the disciplines. Senior persons may still make some vague claim to have "supervised the project", for example, even if they were only in the formal position of a supervisor without having delivered concrete contributions. (The truth content of such statements is usually not checked by independent persons.) However, the need to describe contributions can at least be expected to somewhat reduce honorary authorships. In addition, it may help to identify the perpetrator in a case of scientific fraud.

Ghost authorship

Ghost authorship occurs when an individual makes a substantial contribution to the research but is not listed as an author. Ghost authorship has been linked to partnerships between industry and higher education. Two-thirds of industry-initiated randomized trials
Randomized controlled trial
A randomized controlled trial is a type of scientific experiment - a form of clinical trial - most commonly used in testing the safety and efficacy or effectiveness of healthcare services or health technologies A randomized controlled trial (RCT) is a type of scientific experiment - a form of...

 may have evidence of ghost authorship.
Ghost authorship is considered problematic especially because it may be used to obscure the participation of researchers with conflicts of interest.

Litigation against the pharmaceutical company, Merck
Merck & Co.
Merck & Co., Inc. , also known as Merck Sharp & Dohme or MSD outside the United States and Canada, is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. The Merck headquarters is located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, an unincorporated area in Readington Township...

 over health concerns related to use of their drug, Rofecoxib
Rofecoxib is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that has now been withdrawn over safety concerns. It was marketed by Merck & Co. to treat osteoarthritis, acute pain conditions, and dysmenorrhoea...

 (brand name Vioxx), revealed explicit examples of ghost authorship.
Merck routinely prepared journal manuscripts and subsequently recruited external, academically affiliated researchers to be the authors.

Authors are sometimes included in a list without their permission.
Even if this is done with the benign intention to acknowledge some contributions, it is problematic since authors carry responsibility for correctness and thus need to have the opportunity to check the manuscript and possibly demand changes.

Order of authors in a list

Rules for the order of multiple authors in a list vary significantly from field to field, though they are more often consistent within a field of research. Some fields list authors in order of their degree of involvement in the work, with the most active contributors listed first. Others list them alphabetically. Biologists tend to place a supervisor or lab head last in an author list; organic chemists might put him or her first.

Although listing authors in order of the involvement in the project seems straighforward, it often leads to conflict. A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that more than two-thirds of 919 corresponding authors disagreed with their coauthors regarding contributions of each author.

Responsibility of authors and of co-authors

Many guidelines and customs specify that all co-authors should be able to understand and support the major points of the paper. An author's reputation can be damaged when he allows his name to be used on paper he does not completely understand or was not intimately involved with. In a prominent case, Gerald Schatten
Gerald Schatten
Gerald Schatten is an American stem cell researcher with interests in cell, developmental, and reproductive biology. He is Professor and Vice-Chair of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of Pittsburgh, where he is also...

, an American stem cell researcher had his name listed on a paper co-authored with Hwang Woo-Suk
Hwang Woo-Suk
Hwang Woo-suk is a South Korean veterinarian and researcher. He was a professor of theriogenology and biotechnology at Seoul National University who became infamous for fabricating a series of experiments, which appeared in high-profile journals, in the field of stem cell research...

, that was later revealed to be fraudulent. Although Schatten is not accused of participating in the fraud, a panel at his university found that "his failure to more closely oversee research with his name on it does make him guilty of 'research misbehavior.'"

All authors, including coauthors, are usually expected to have made reasonable attempts to check findings submitted for publication. In some cases coauthors of faked research have been accused of inappropriate behavior or research misconduct for failing to verify reports authored by others or by a commercial sponsor.Examples include the case of Professor Geoffrey Chamberlain named as guest author of papers fabricated by Malcolm Pearce, (Chamberlain was exonerated from collusion in Pearce's deception) and the co-authors of Jan Hendrik Schön
Jan Hendrik Schön
The Schön scandal concerns German physicist Jan Hendrik Schön who briefly rose to prominence after a series of apparent breakthroughs with semiconductors that were later discovered to be fraudulent...

 at Bell Laboratories
Bell Labs
Bell Laboratories is the research and development subsidiary of the French-owned Alcatel-Lucent and previously of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company , half-owned through its Western Electric manufacturing subsidiary.Bell Laboratories operates its...

. More recent cases include Charles Nemeroff
Charles Nemeroff
Charles Barnet Nemeroff is an American psychiatrist known for his work in treating depression.-Life and career:Nemeroff was born in New York City and graduated from the City College of New York in 1970. He received a Master’s degree in Biology in 1973 from Northeastern University. He then earned...

, former editor-in-chief of Neuropsychopharmacology
Neuropsychopharmacology is an interdisciplinary science related to psychopharmacology and fundamental neuroscience...

, and the so-called Sheffield Actonel affair.

Additionally, authors are expected to keep all study data for later examination even after publication. Both scientific and academic censure can result from a failure to keep primary data; the case of Ranjit Chandra
Ranjit Chandra
Ranjit Kumar Chandra, OC is a professional in the field of nutrition and immunology who has been accused of committing scientific fraud by the British Medical Journal...

 of Memorial University of Newfoundland
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Memorial University of Newfoundland, is a comprehensive university located primarily in St...

 provides an example of this. Many scientific journals also require that authors provide information to allow readers to determine whether the authors may have commercial or non-commercial conflicts of interest
Conflict of interest
A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other....

. Outlined in the author disclosure statement for the American Journal of Human Biology
American Journal of Human Biology
The American Journal of Human Biology is a peer-reviewed scientific journal covering human biology. It is the official publication of the Human Biology Association...

, this is a policy more common in scientific fields where funding often comes from corporate sources. Authors are also commonly required to provide information about ethical
Research ethics
Research ethics involves the application of fundamental ethical principles to a variety of topics involving scientific research. These include the design and implementation of research involving human experimentation, animal experimentation, various aspects of academic scandal, including scientific...

 aspects of research, particularly where research involves human or animal participants or use of biological material. Provision of incorrect information to journals may be regarded as misconduct. Financial pressures on universities have encouraged this type of misconduct. The majority of recent cases of alleged misconduct involving undisclosed conflicts of interest or failure of the authors to have seen scientific data involve collaborative research between scientists and biotechnology companies.

Anonymous and unclaimed authorship

Authors occasionally forego claiming authorship, for a number of reasons. Historically some authors have published anonymously to shield themselves when presenting controversial claims. A key example is Robert Chambers
Robert Chambers
Robert Chambers was a Scottish publisher, geologist, proto-evolutionary thinker, author and journal editor who, like his elder brother and business partner William Chambers, was highly influential in mid-19th century scientific and political circles.Chambers was an early phrenologist, and was the...

' anonymous publication of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation
Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation is a unique work of speculative natural history published anonymously in England in 1844. It brought together various ideas of stellar evolution with the progressive transmutation of species in an accessible narrative which tied together numerous...

, a speculative, pre-Darwinian work on the origins of life and the cosmos. The book argued for an evolutionary view of life in the same spirit as the late Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de la Marck , often known simply as Lamarck, was a French naturalist...

. Lamarck had long been discredited among intellectuals by this time and evolutionary (or development) theories were exceedingly unpopular, except among the political radicals, materialists, and atheists - Chambers hoped to avoid Lamarck's fate.

In the 18th century, Émilie du Châtelet
Émilie du Châtelet
-Early life:Du Châtelet was born on 17 December 1706 in Paris, the only daughter of six children. Three brothers lived to adulthood: René-Alexandre , Charles-Auguste , and Elisabeth-Théodore . Her eldest brother, René-Alexandre, died in 1720, and the next brother, Charles-Auguste, died in 1731...

 began her career as a scientific author by submitting a paper in an annual competition held by the French Academy of Sciences
French Academy of Sciences
The French Academy of Sciences is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research...

; papers in this competition were submitted anonymously. Initially presenting her work without claiming authorship allowed her to have her work judged by established scientists while avoiding the bias against women in the sciences. She did not win the competition, but eventually her paper was published alongside the winning submissions, under her real name.

Scientists and engineers working in corporate and military organizations are often restricted from publishing and claiming authorship of their work because their results are considered secret property of the organization that employs them. One account describes the frustration of physicists working in nuclear weapons programs at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory , just outside Livermore, California, is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center founded by the University of California in 1952...

- years after making a discovery they would read of the same phenomenon being "discovered" by a physicist unaware of the original, secret discovery of the phenomenon.

Further reading

  • (Includes elements of authorship and how they interact with copyright law) - a proposal to reform academic authorship along the line of film credits
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