Is it time to update the tradition of authorship in scientific publications?
Studies of authorship in science suggest that traditional criteria for authorship no longer reflect the way research is actually done. Although published guidelines on authorship have existed for decades, investigations reveal that they are not followed consistently, and many researchers remain unaware of them. The reality seems to be that definitions of what contributions merit authorship vary from one department to another within institutions, as well as among institutions and scientific disciplines. If you would like to learn more about these issues, please see the list of Selected References on Authorship.
A conference to discuss these issues and consider redefining scientific authorship was held in Nottingham, England in June 1996. For a review of the issues and problems surrounding authorship and an overview of the Nottingham conference, please see “Is it time for a new approach to authorship?”
To follow up on ideas presented at the Nottingham conference, a second conference, sponsored jointly by the Lancet, the British Medical Journal, and the Council of Biology Editors, was held in February 1998 in Berkeley, California. Those attending included journal editors, researchers, and academic administrators. One idea emerging from these discussions was a plan to require researchers submitting papers for publication to list the contributors to the report, along with a description of what each contributed to the work. To learn more about the contributorship plan, see “A new standard for authorship.” Several journals have implemented the contributorship plan in forms that differ slightly. Some of these journals are now collecting information about how well the system works for their contributors, their editors, and their readers.
The CSE’s Task Force on Authorship, formed after the Berkeley conference, is working to inform as wide an audience as possible about these issues. One purpose is to let those who may be interested in authorship know about guidelines that are available now, both in print and online. The Task Force is also interested in hearing from editors, researchers, administrators, authors, contributors, students and fellows. What are your concerns about current authorship practices in your field? Is authorship working well, in your experience? If not, does the contributorship plan sound like a constructive remedy for the problems? Is there a better approach that should be tried?
Read and comment on a paper that was presented at the authorship retreat in May 1999.
Review the CSE Task Force’s Draft White Paper on Authorship.
The Committee on Publication Ethics provides a wealth of information about ethical issues in publication, including authorship.
Authorship Task Force Group Members:
Anne Hudson Jones
Anthony Proto (secondary)