To be named as an author or not: that is the question

Authorship is a crucial aspect of scientific research, as it serves as a way to credit and recognise researchers who have contributed to a study, while also maintaining the ethics, integrity, and accountability of the research process.

Authorship provides an opportunity for researchers to receive recognition and credit for their contributions to a study. This recognition can be important for career advancement, funding opportunities, and professional reputation. Still, what are the rules for co-authorship?

Following established guidelines

When crediting authors in a scientific article, it is important to follow established guidelines and best practices to ensure that all contributors are appropriately recognised and credited for their work. Here are some general principles to keep in mind:

  1. Authorship criteria: The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has established criteria for authorship that are widely accepted in the scientific community. According to these criteria, authors should have made substantial contributions to the conception, design, analysis, interpretation, or writing of the article. All authors should also take responsibility for the content of the article and agree to be accountable for any issues related to accuracy or integrity.
  1. Order of authors: The order in which authors are listed should reflect the relative contributions of each author to the work. Typically, the first author is the person who made the greatest contribution to the work, while the last author is often the senior author who oversaw the project. However, it is important to note that there may be variations in author order depending on the norms of the particular field or research group.
  1. Acknowledgments: In addition to listing authors, scientific articlesoften include an acknowledgments section to recognise contributions that do not meet the criteria for authorship. This may include assistance with data collection or analysis, funding support, or other forms of assistance.
  1. Conflicts of interest: Scientific articles should also disclose any potential conflicts of interest that may have influenced the research or its findings. This may include financial relationships, employment or consulting arrangements, or other factors that could influence the research.

By following established guidelines and best practices, authors can help to ensure that their work is properly credited and recognised within the scientific community.

Some additional best practices

There are some additional best practices to keep in mind when crediting authors:

  1. Communicate authorship roles and responsibilities: It’s important for authors to discuss and agree on authorship roles and responsibilities early on in the research process. This can help ensure that all contributors understand their role and are appropriately credited.
  1. Use a contributorship model: Some journals and research groups use a contributorship model, which allows for more nuanced authorship credit. In this model, authors are listed with specific contributions (e.g. data collection, analysis, writing, etc.) next to their names.
  2. Consider equal authorship: In some cases, multiple authors may have contributed equally to the work. In these cases, it may be appropriate to list the authors in alphabetical order or to indicate that they contributed equally.
  1. Ensure accuracy in authorship credit: It’s important to ensure that all authors are credited accurately and appropriately. This may involve verifying authorship roles and contributions with all contributors, as well as ensuring that all authors are included and listed in the correct order.
  1. Be transparent about changes to authorship: If changes to authorship are made after the article has been submitted or published, it’s important to be transparent about these changes and to provide an explanation for why they were made.

Should PhD candidates be credited?

PhD candidates can be credited as authors in scientific papers, provided they meet the established authorship criteria. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines for authorship, for example, state that individuals who have made substantial contributions to the conception, design, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work may be credited as authors.

In many cases, PhD candidates make significant contributions to the research that is published in scientific papers. They may contribute to the design of the study, collect and analyse data, and help to interpret the results. As such, it is appropriate for them to be credited as authors if they meet the authorship criteria.

It’s worth noting that simply being a PhD candidate or graduate student is not sufficient to qualify for authorship. However, if a PhD candidate has made a significant contribution to the work that meets the authorship criteria, then they should be included as an author. Additionally, it is important to ensure that all contributors to the work are appropriately credited, including PhD candidates and other junior researchers.

Overall, the decision to credit PhD candidates as authors in scientific papers should be based on their contributions to the work, as well as established authorship criteria.

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