Authorship: 10 best practices
If you are thinking about writing a new publication:
- Consult the guidelines on authorship within your field and/or faculty and find out what policy is in place at the journal in question. Make sure that any arrangements are always in line with this policy.
- Discuss authorship issues beforehand (i.e. before you start writing) with anyone you want to involve in your publication (e.g. your supervisor, colleagues, experts). Clearly state what role you would like them to take up and what they will get in return. As such, each person involved may point out what their expectations are.
- Use an authorship protocol (e.g. protocol of the Faculty of Law and Criminology, of the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy) to formalize any arrangements made or at the very least record arrangements in an email. The allocation and order of authorship is known and approved by all partners.
- Appoint one corresponding author Naturally, this person meets all the criteria for authorship. At the very least, this person has a clear view of how the article was realized and what everyone’s contribution was. S/he is also ultimately responsible for all contributions being correctly listed. This person is responsible for the entire content of the article, owns the materials used or knows where to find them (e.g. version control, data) and acts as the official point of contact. When this person is appointed, it is crucial that s/he continues to meet these requirements in the long term; at the very least s/he is required to have fixed contact details, as well as a commitment to follow-up.
- In the course of the publication, certain changes are likely to occur (e.g. determined contributions may be altered, an expert may be added). In that case, any decisions that were taken will be reviewed and, if necessary, amended. + See item 3.
- Journals increasingly require an authorship contribution statement, also known as contributorship disclosure, which explicitly and in detail describes what each author has done to realize the results, ranging from producing the research idea to writing and submitting a publication. Regardless of whether it was specifically requested by a journal, it is recommended that for each manuscript a clear description is given of who was responsible for what part and what they did exactly. These statements are preferably included in the actual article. Make sure that the contributions of all authors are explained in a clear, precise, detailed and accurate manner. Examples of authorship policies: Nature, PLoS, ...
- For each author, add the correct affiliation and ORCID.
- Anyone who does not meet the criteria for authorship but did somehow make a valuable contribution to the manuscript (e.g. by offering an idea, technical support, material, financial support or statistical advice) may be acknowledged by being mentioned in the acknowledgements section, in a footnote on the first page, with the specific way in which they contributed preceded by the phrase ‘with the cooperation of ...’.
- Authorship does not only involve a responsibility to meet the criteria for authorship and correctly determine the order in which authors are listed. Authors are also responsible for their own part of the manuscript at the very least, both in terms of accuracy and in terms of the integrity of the content and the form of the contribution. The author is expected to understand the full paper and be able to clarify and defend it. If this is not the case, the author is expected to withdraw at his/her own initiative (e.g. when an article draws conclusions that an author does not fully support, or when an author has discovered shortcomings in the data analysis). Before withdrawing, the author may express these concerns to all other authors and, in joint consultation, they may adjust the article if this is necessary, possible or desirable. The differences of opinion may also be included in the text, provided that they are sufficiently explained. The author is also responsible for the integrity of their role as authors. The commissioning party and external financiers are therefore revealed in the publication, as is their relationship to the researcher. Any consultancy services or other connections between commissioning parties and researchers who have facilitated the research are also mentioned (e.g. delivery of samples, use of instruments, sharing of expertise). This is known as the disclosure statement for potential conflicts of interest. Example: ICMJE Guidelines and concrete application.
- For any problems concerning authorship, researchers themselves will first take the initiative to discuss the problem within the group. Only when there has been no appropriate response or when the conflict persists will the researchers approach the faculty contact point or, in the absence thereof, the secretary of the Commission for Research Integrity - who may also be approached for general questions on authorship. (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Want to know more? Have a look at the web page on authorship in scientific articles.
Dance, A. (2012). Authorship: who’s on first? Nature 489, 591-593.
Brand, A., Allen, L., Altman, M., Hlava., & Scott, J. (2015). Beyond authorship: attribution, contribution, collaboration, and credit. Learned Publishing 28, 151–155. (https://doi.org/10.1087/20150211)
Last modified Sept. 30, 2021, 10:06 a.m.