Reflect on your own
How did you learn of authorship practices within your research group or discipline?
What are some authorship practices that are unique to your discipline?
What support or resources can you access as you navigate potential challenges surrounding authorship?
When preparing your manuscript for publication, each author is responsible to ensure that all contributions to the research are accurately credited.
At UBC, unethical authorship practices constitute a form of research misconduct that can have serious consequences, including being required to issue corrections or retract papers from publication.
Each contributor plays a role in upholding integrity in authorship.
Discuss authorship in advance
Early in the research process, the research leader should work to establish a shared understanding and clear expectations among all collaborators. This could take the form of a meeting or the development of a project charter. Take time to discuss what criteria warrant that a person is considered an author on the paper, create a written record of the discussion and revisit the agreed terms as the project progresses to ensure clear communication and expectations between collaborators.
Document individual contributions
Throughout the research process, list all substantial contributions to the research project — including study design, data acquisition, data analysis and interpretation, manuscript writing or other contributions. Tools, such as the Contributor Role Taxonomy (CRediT), may help capture individuals' contributions more transparently. In addition to helping ensure the integrity of the research, maintaining this record can be helpful when submitting your work to be published.
Seek consensus from all contributors
All authors on a paper bear the credit — and the responsibility — for the quality and accuracy of the completed and published work. Take the time to ensure all authors can review and approve the final manuscript. In addition, some journals are requiring the explicit consent of all authors to be provided when the paper is submitted.
Did you know?
Many reputable journals have adopted a contributorship model, whereby each author's contributions must be documented as part of the manuscript.
Differing authorship practices
Authorship conventions, practices and expectations differ between institutions, disciplines, research groups and non-academic partners. As the research landscape becomes increasingly collaborative, these differences may lead to friction and disagreements between collaborators. By discussing authorship at the outset of a project and seeking consensus before submitting, you can avoid potential friction between authors and also help protect scholarly integrity.
Overlooking authors’ specializations
Different expertise is often required to address large-scale and complex research questions. While a co-author may have relevant expertise to make a significant contribution to and defend the validity of a portion of the research for which they contributed, they may risk being associated with a discredited publication without their knowledge. Conducting your work with integrity and rigour honours the trust your co-authors have placed in you. Furthermore, clarifying each individual’s contribution and documenting it helps mitigate against potential blind spots.
It can be tempting to include a non-contributing author to increase the chances of the work being published in a prestigious journal or to inflate a researcher’s list of publications. On the other extreme, sometimes an author’s contributions may go unacknowledged in an attempt to conceal their involvement, or out of carelessness. These practices — often known as gift, guest, honourary or ghost authorship — violate the integrity of the work and undermine the reputation of all authors involved. As a contributing author, the responsibility to ensure accurate authorship credit lies with you.
- CRediT Taxonomy
- Intellectual Property Guide, UBC Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
- Publishing a Journal Article, UBC Library
- RCR Framework Interpretations: Publication Guidelines, Panel on Responsible Conduct of Research
- Tips for determining authorship credit, American Psychological Association
The developed content is adapted from the following:
Eisner, R., Vasgird, D., Hyman-Browne, E. (2003) Columbia University Responsible Conduct of Research: Responsible Authorship and Peer Review. Retrieved from: http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/rcr/rcr_authorship/
International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (2018). Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals. Available from: http://www.ICMJE.org.
National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. (1992). Ch. 2. Scientific Principles and Research Practices in Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process: Volume I. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). Ch. 7. Addressing Research Misconduct and Detrimental Research Practices: Current Knowledge and Issues in Fostering Integrity in Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
Steneck, N.H. (2007) Chapter 9. Authorship and Publication. In ORI Introductions to the Responsible Conduct of Research. (pp. 133-45) Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office.