URP: II.14.n Authorship in Scholarly or Scientific Publications


Authorship credit should be given to those who contribute and participate in substantive ways to scholarly and scientific work, and should honestly and accurately reflect actual contributions. Fair and equitable determination of authorship is important to the reputation, academic promotion, and funding support of the individuals involved, and to the strength and reputation of the authors’ respective institutions. Authorship in a scholarly or scientific publication confers credit and implies responsibility and accountability for published work. Determining authorship is an important component of assuring integrity in research and scholarship and serves to explicitly assign responsibility and give credit for intellectual work. This URP serves to provide guidelines for authorship in scholarly or scientific publications.



Acknowledgement: Individuals who do not meet the requirements for authorship, but who have provided a valuable contribution to the work, should be acknowledged for their contributing role as appropriate to the publication. Those whose contributions do not justify authorship may be acknowledged individually or together as a group under a single heading (e.g. "Clinical Investigators" or "Participating Investigators"), and their contributions should be specified (e.g., "served as scientific advisors," "critically reviewed the study proposal," "collected data," "participated in writing or technical editing of the manuscript").

Author: An author should meet all four of the following criteria as recommended by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and the Committee on Publication Ethics:  

  1. Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation for the work; and
  2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and
  3. Final approval of the version to be published; and
  4. Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work were appropriately investigated and resolved. 

All those designated as authors should meet all four criteria for authorship, and all who meet the four criteria should be identified as authors. All individuals who meet the first criteria should have the opportunity to participate in the review, drafting, and final approval of the manuscript. Those who meet some, but not all four criteria, should be acknowledged. Serving as the Chair or Member of a dissertation or thesis committee or professional paper, or serving as instructor of a course in which the work was created does not automatically confer authorship.   

In addition to being accountable for the parts of the work they have done, an author should be able to identify which co-authors are responsible for specific other parts of the work. 

Coercive authorship: Coercive authorship typically consists of a senior researcher (such as a dissertation advisor) forcing a junior researcher (such as a graduate student) to include a gift or guest author. Faculty members should be named as co-authors on work generated by junior researchers (including students) only if they meet all four of the criteria for authorship.

Corresponding author: The corresponding author is the one individual who takes primary responsibility for communication with the journal during the manuscript submission, peer review, and publication process, and typically ensures that all the journal’s administrative requirements, such as providing details of authorship, ethics committee approval, clinical trial registration documentation, and gathering conflict of interest forms and statements, are properly completed, although these duties may be delegated to one or more coauthors. The corresponding author is also responsible for communicating with the coauthors about requested changes to the manuscript and the status of the document in the review process. The corresponding author should be available throughout the submission and peer review process to respond to editorial queries in a timely way, and should be available after publication to respond to critiques of the work and cooperate with any requests from the journal for data or additional information should questions about the paper arise after publication.

Gift authorship: Historically, some disciplines included acknowledgement of an individual as an “author” based upon that individual’s rank, a practice that may be referred to as “gift” authorship.  Gift authorship, also known as courtesy or honorary authorship, is when individuals are listed as authors despite not having made intellectual contributions to the work, or whose intellectual contribution is limited.  Examples include provision of routine technical services, referral of patients or participants for a study, assistance with data collection and management, or review of a completed manuscript for suggestions. Rather than inclusion as a co-author, such contributors should be acknowledged for their role as appropriate.  Under no circumstance should individuals be added as co-authors based on the individual’s stature as an attempt to increase the likelihood of publication or credibility of the work. Senior faculty members should be named as co-authors on work generated by junior researchers (including students) only when meeting the criteria for authorship in this URP. Gift authorship is not a practice that meets the principles outlined in this URP

Ghost authorship: Ghost authorship is intentionally not identifying as an author someone who made substantial contributions to the research or writing of a manuscript that merited authorship. It includes employing authors for hire with the understanding that they will not be credited. Ghost authorship is not a practice that meets the principles outlined in this URP.

Lead author: Some diversity exists across academic disciplines regarding acceptable standards for substantive contributions that would lead to order of authors. Author order (e.g. first author, last author) should follow the guidelines of the discipline and be negotiated by contributors in advance.

The first author, or lead author, is usually the person who has performed the central scholarly work of the project. Often, this individual is also the person who has prepared the first draft of the manuscript. The lead author is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all other authors meet the requirements for authorship as well as ensuring the integrity of the work itself. The lead author will usually serve as the corresponding author.

Non-author contributors: Contributors who meet fewer than all four of the above criteria for authorship should not be listed as authors, but they should be acknowledged. Examples of activities that alone (without other contributions) do not qualify a contributor for authorship are acquisition of funding; general supervision of a research group or general administrative support; and writing assistance, technical editing, language editing, and proofreading.


As early as possible in the research or scholarly process, collaborators should discuss the general requirements for authorship of any manuscript that will report results of joint work. This does not mean deciding who will – or will not – be an author. Rather, the principles guiding authorship decisions should be discussed, potentially with reference to this or similar guidance documents. To prevent misunderstandings, it is recommended that discussions of authorship standards be held openly and frequently within collaborative projects.

Agreements should be established between co-authors early in the writing process for each manuscript, and these agreements should be reviewed and revised as needed to reflect changes in the actual contributions of each individual. These agreements should be established whether co-authors are students or faculty.  

Research groups should discuss authorship credit/criteria, presentation of joint work, and future directions of the research as early as practical, and frequently, during the course of their work. This should involve explicit discussion of expectations of continued collaboration if a contributor who would normally be considered an author leaves the project or institution during the conduct of the work. The lead investigator should initiate these discussions; however, any collaborator may raise questions or seek clarity throughout the course of the collaboration. Each lab or group may consider having a written guiding document in place.

Disagreements sometimes arise regarding who should be named as an author of or contributor to intellectual work and the order in which individuals should be listed. Some of these disputes are a result of failed communication and expectation setting. These guidelines are meant to serve as a set of standards that are shared by the academic community as a whole, to help facilitate open communication through adherence to common principles. These principles apply to all intellectual products, whether published or prepared for internal use or for broad dissemination.



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Article ID: 87380
Thu 9/19/19 2:27 PM