The Importance of Authorship in Academic Writing
The ability to associate a researcher with the results of his or her work is central to the framework of science. It is also a significant factor in assessing the quality of a researcher’s research and in making decisions regarding promotion and tenure.
Consequently, the issue of authorship is one of the most frequently mediated issues that scientific ombudsman address.
Identifying the Authors
Research teams should discuss and agree upon their authorship policy at the planning stage. This should include specific criteria and an explicit agreement on the roles and responsibilities of each individual. It is also advisable to record these decisions, and revisit them where relevant, as the project progresses.
As noted above, authors should ensure that they meet all four of the ICMJE guidelines. This includes having made a significant contribution to the conception, design, execution or acquisition of data and to the analysis and interpretation of the results. Authors should also have drafted the article or substantially revised it. Moreover, authors should be able to identify their own contributions to the article, and if necessary, explain them in detail.
It is the responsibility of all authors to ensure that the corresponding author’s name is correctly displayed and that the order of co-authors is correct. Any changes to this information should be discussed and agreed between the corresponding author and any other authors before submission or publication.
Identifying the Contributions
As scientific research increasingly becomes a team affair, it is vital that people who do work get credit and accountability for it. It is also important that stakeholders like potential collaborators, reviewers and tenure committees can understand what was actually done in a published paper. This requires information on the extent, breadth and nature of contributions. Unfortunately, current authorship practice provides insufficient detail to satisfy these needs.
While traditional policies and criteria for authorship focus on idea generation, funding/project administration, data collection, analysis and reporting, there is a growing recognition that other types of contributions are essential to scientific progress (Cooke et al. 2021).
In addition to identifying individuals who meet the criteria for authorship, authors should also consider listing non-authors who made important contributions to an article in an ‘Acknowledgments’ or ‘Contributions’ section. This could include technical assistants, formatting-related writing assistance, translators or scholarly discussions which significantly contributed to the development of an article.
Identifying the Acknowledgments
In academic writing, the acknowledgement section allows authors to thank individuals who made specific contributions to their research. The list should include people who provided intellectual, material, or financial support, as well as those who gave moral or personal guidance. It should also name people who helped with the study, but did not meet the criteria for authorship (check your target journal’s Instructions to Authors for guidelines).
Research collaboration often involves transfer of skills. This can help authors overcome challenges in their work, especially in areas such as technical or written communication. It can also help researchers develop a sense of scientific identity and independence.
In cases of co-authorship, it is important to establish a clear hierarchy that clarifies the roles and responsibilities of each person involved in the article. This will prevent disputes over the distribution of credit and privileges. It will also ensure that the correct information is disseminated. This will enhance the credibility and impact of the paper.
Identifying the Conclusions
The conclusion section of your article provides an opportunity to encapsulate the main findings of your research, and to demonstrate their importance. Your conclusions can highlight how your work fills gaps in the literature and contributes to the overall body of knowledge.
Disputes over authorship can delay research and hinder publication, and they can damage collaborations. Ideally, authors should discuss and agree on co-authorship arrangements at the outset of a project.
However, in some cases, these conversations may not take place and, in the case of multi-institutional or interdisciplinary projects, they can be difficult to resolve. In such cases, the involvement of a third party who is familiar with publication norms in the discipline (see Addendum B) can be helpful to facilitate a discussion and resolution of an authorship dispute. In addition, training for facilitating discussions of team structures, leadership styles, and responsibilities can help to prevent these disputes (see strategies 5 and 9).