Authorship

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Some Views on Joint Authorship in Scientific Papers

Richard M. Murray

Division of Engineering and Applied Science California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 91125

27 September 1992 Working document. Please do not distribute.


This note is a description of my views on joint authorship of scientific papers. It lays out my opinions on who should be included as an author on a paper, the order of the authors, and how to resolve conflicts between authors. It is a working document which represents my current feelings on the subject; it is under constant revision as new experiences and information add to my understanding of this complex issue.

The first thing that one must acknowledge when discussing joint authorship of scientific papers is that there are different views on what is appropriate and that these views vary between disciplines and individuals. The most important aspect of joint authorship is to have a consistent, justifiable philosophy which is within the norms established by the scientific community.

--- say something about the ways these things are done (or incl. cite) ---

There are several ways to acknowledge a person's contribution to a scientific work. Any results which have been previously published by another author and are relevant to the work being presented should be cited appropriately. Specific ideas or suggestions which have not appeared in print might be cited as a "personal communication". This is appropriate if an individual made a very specific suggestion or comment which concerns only a portion of the paper. More substantial suggestions can be noted in acknowledgements included at the end of the paper. Acknowledgements often include individuals who read rough drafts of the paper and provided comments, had discussions on the general subject area which the authors found useful, or pointed out specific results and techniques which were beneficial or instrumental in completing the research.

Any individual who had ``significant impact on the overall content of the paper should be included as an author. For students, this almost always includes one's advisor, even if that person did not directly carry out calculations, perform simulations or experiments, or write large portions of the paper. Of course, this assumes a student-professor relationship in which the professor takes an active part in guiding the research, providing ideas about specific techniques that are employed, and assisting in generation of the paper (perhaps by providing detailed and critical comments as the paper is drafted). This is above and beyond any nominal direction that an advisor might provide in helping a student to select and choose a research topic.

Other individuals who have made significant contributions to the paper might included students working in your lab, other professors who were consulted as part of the research effort, or colleagues at other institutions. To be added as an author, the contributions of these individuals should be more substantial than a simple discussion about the problem or a reference to some related work. Acknowlegements can serve the purpose of thanking someone who provided information that was crucial to solving the problem without actively working on the problem themselves.

In most cases, the bulk of a paper will be written by one individual, the primary author. The primary author should *always* be the first author listed on the publication. It is the first author's responsibility to decide on the remaining authors that will be listed on the paper and the order in which they will be listed. If there is no clear ordering of the authors based on their contributions, alphabetical order should be used.

While the final decision on who to list as authors rests with the primary author, the primary author also accepts responsibility for insuring that all parties involved are given appropriate credit. It is inherent in the scientific process that new results build on top of old results. Giving proper credit for previous work is the backbone of science.

--- quote from wherever I read about this ---

Before a paper is submitted to a journal or conference, copies of the paper should be sent to people who are listed in the acknowledgements or have otherwise been involved in the paper. This provides those people an opportunity to discuss any problems in properly attributing research results before the paper is accepted for publication. It is also a good way to insure that people have been credited appropriately: if you feel awkward sending someone a copy of a paper, there may be a reason.

--- resolving conflicts between authors ---

--- add citations ---