Thursday, November 7, 2019

SRG Authorship Guiding Principles

This post aims to address authorship in research papers produced within our research group. I think that authorship guidelines should be discussed early in the research project or graduate study in order to avoid complications later. I've witnessed colleagues and other individuals who abuse authorship by giving 'honorary' authorships, excluding names from the list of authors, and changing authorship order. The work by Solomon, Programmers, Professors, and Parasites: Credit and Co-Authorship in Computer Science, provides a good discussion of this topic. It presents the following principles that I will adopt for our group.

1. Authorship credit should be distributed only to those researchers directly involved with the paper or project in question. Researchers with indirect or minimal involvement may be mentioned in an additional "acknowledgements" section if necessary. All contributors should appear on paper; "ghost writing" is an invalid way even for a busy researcher to produce publications.

- Should you include your adviser and your committee members?
- Should you include project leader, project staff, research assistants?
- Should you include your research group leader?
- Should you include ALL members of your research group?
- Should you include your special someone?

2. All authors should be paired with short descriptions of their contributions to the project. These descriptions need not be on the title page but should apparent for anybody seeking further information about the research presented. This principle extends to the acknowledgements list. In general, any individuals or organizations mentioned by the paper should be identified to avoid "honorary" authorship and make explicit the division of work leading to the final results.

3. The list of authors should be divided by level of contribution. Within each division, authors should be ordered by the amount they contributed to the particular paper in question. Truly equal co-authorship relationships should be marked as such, with none of the authors identified as a "corresponding" author. The lack of a single corresponding author can be addressed by creating a simple email that alias that contacts all the principal authors simultaneously. Those researchers who would be considered "inventors" should be marked as such for the purposes of verifying future patent applications.

4. Upon publication, authors should be required to sign that the work in the paper is at least partially their own and that no other authors should be given credit.

5. Any and all decisions involving authorship should involve the mutual consent of all authors, which should be established via individual contact.

6. Any discovered cases of authorship fraud should be dealt with in much the same way as data fabrication. Once they are caught, authors should be required to explain their incorrect practices in a published statement and rectify any disadvantages suffered by parties not receiving appropriate credit.


[1] Solomon, Justin. (2009). Programmers, Professors, and Parasites: Credit and Co-Authorship in Computer Science. Science and engineering ethics. 15. 467-89. 10.1007/s11948-009-9119-4.

[2] Allison Gaffey. (2015). Determining and negotiating authorship. Retrieved October 6, 2019 from