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Authorship and contributorship

Information on how to determine who should be an author of an output, how to decide authorship order, author responsibilities, and other tips.

General principles in authorship

Determining authorship

Determining authorship is an important part of conducting collaborative research. Authorship disputes can often be avoided if criteria for determining authorship and authorship order are discussed and agreed at the research planning stage.

These conversations should continue throughout the project lifecycle, as both the initial authorship and the authorship order can change as the project progresses (e.g., an author could be added if the scope of the project expands, or an author can be removed if they do not assist in the project as initially agreed).

There are a number of resources that can help you determine who should be listed as an author on an output. Some of them are discipline specific, but many can be used across disciplines:

Recognising a range of contributions: CRediT (Contributor Roles Taxonomy)

A new model of recognising all contributions to an output, the Contributor Roles Taxonomy CRediT, has been gaining popularity. We recommend that you use this taxonomy for your outputs, where permitted by the publisher. The taxonomy includes traditional authorship roles, but is not limited to them. Instead of aiming to define what authorship is, its main goal is to capture all the substantial work that goes into the production of an output.

The model allows contributors to share a description of their input to the project, using 14 pre-defined contributor roles: conceptualization; data curation; formal analysis; funding acquisition; investigation; methodology; project administration; resources; software; supervision; validation; visualization; writing – original draft; writing – review & editing.

Determining authorship order, author, affiliations and contributions

Increasingly outputs are a result of collaborative work. This means that a discussion of the authorship order and the assignation of the corresponding author role needs to be discussed.

Unless authors are presented in alphabetical order (which is common in some fields, e.g., economics, accounting or physics, or when a large number of authors are involved), the position in the authorship order can be used as a metric of scientific contribution (with first- and last author positions being the most significant in some disciplines).

  • The first author is commonly the person who makes the most significant intellectual contribution to the work, by, for example, designing the study, collecting and analysing data and writing the manuscript
  • The last author is often a senior academic or the principal investigator, who appears in that position due to their lead role on the project, e.g., designing the study, managing/supervising the project, editing the manuscript
  • The middle authors are determined by their relative overall contributions to the final output
  • Shared first authorship might be considered in situations where two or more authors have worked and contributed equally to an output. This is indicated in the publication in a manner appropriate to the journal (e.g., a footnote statement might be added which states that the indicated authors contributed equally to the project).

While these are some commonly applied rules when determining authorship order, different disciplines have additional guidelines. As authorship order can be used to judge an author’s relative contribution to an output in some fields, but not in others, the assessment of your research portfolio might be evaluated differently by different fields (e.g., for inter-disciplinary work). Unless a taxonomy such as the Contributor Roles Taxonomy (CRediT) is used, this can be problematic.

The APA have created the author tie-breaker scorecard (PDF) which can assist you in discussions over the order of authorship of an output.

Ethical considerations, author accountability and misconduct

Authorship to-do list

What to consider at each stage of planning and running your project and publishing your output.