Academic authorship

Academic authorship

Authorship of journal articles, books and other original works is a means by which academics communicate the results of their scholarly work, establish priority for their discoveries, and build their reputation among their peers. Authorship is a primary basis on which many academics are evaluated for employment, promotion, and tenure. In academic publishing, authorship of a work is claimed by those making intellectual contributions to the completion of the research described in the work. In simple cases, a solitary scholar carries out a research project and writes the subsequent article or book. In many disciplines, however, collaboration is the norm and issues of authorship can be controversial. In these contexts, authorship can encompass activities other than writing the article; a researcher who comes up with an experimental design and analyzes the data may be considered an author, even if he had little role in composing the text describing the results. According to some standards, writing the entire article would not constitute authorship unless the writer was also involved in at least one other phase of the project. [Dickson et al., 1978. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 6(4) 260-261]

What constitutes authorship?

Guidelines for assigning authorship vary between institutions and disciplines. They may be formally defined or simply customary. Incorrect application of authorship rules occasionally leads to charges of academic misconduct and sanctions for the violator. In one study, disputed authorship was the most commonly reported form of alleged misconduct. Nylenna, M.,Andersen, D., Dahiquist, G., Sarvas, M., and Aakvaag, A. (1999) Handling of scientific dishonesty in the Nordic countries. "The Lancet" 354: 11-18 [] Accessed 2006-09-02.]

Some major institutions have put forth guidelines for authorship. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors specifies that authors must have made a substantial intellectual contribution to a study's conception and design, or to the acquisition, analysis or interpretation of data. They must also have drafted or revised the article's intellectual content, and approved the final version. The journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" has an editorial policy that specifies "authorship should be limited to those who have contributed substantially to the work" and furthermore, "authors are strongly encouraged to indicate their specific contributions" as a footnote. The American Chemical Society further specifies that authors are those who also "share responsibility and accountability for the results" [Editors of the Publications Division of the American Chemical Society. 2006. Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research. ] and the U.S. National Academies specify "an author who is willing to take credit for a paper must also bear responsibility for its contents. Thus, unless a footnote or the text of the paper explicitly assigns responsibility for different parts of the paper to different authors, the authors whose names appear on a paper must share responsibility for all of it." Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy, National Academy of Sciences. 1995. On Being A Scientist: Responsible Conduct In Research. National Academys Press, Washington DC ]

Some papers will have quite a few authors. In genome sequencing and particle-physics collaborations, for example, a paper's author list can run into the hundreds. One commentator wrote, "In more than 25 years working as a scientific editor ... I have not been aware of any valid argument for more than three authors per paper, although I recognize that this may not be true for every field." [van Loon, A. J. Pseudo-authorship. "Nature" 389, 11 (04 September 1997); doi:10.1038/37855] Nevertheless, "Big Science" papers often describe work to which many investigators have contributed. Such situations strain guidelines that insist that each author's role be described and that each author is responsible for the validity of the whole work. One Big Science facility, the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF), in 1998 adopted a highly unorthodox policy for assigning authorship. CDF maintains a "standard author list". All scientists and engineers working at CDF are added to the standard author list after one year of full time work; names stay on the list until one year after the worker leaves CDF. Every publication coming out of CDF uses the entire standard author list, in alphabetical order. Such a system treats authorship more as "credit" for scientific service at the facility in general rather that as an identification of specific contributions. [Biagioli, M. Rights or rewards? Changing frameworks of scientific authorship. "in" Scientific Authorship Biagioli, M. and Galison, P. eds. Routledge, New York, 2003, p. 253-280. ]

"Honorary authorship" is sometimes granted to those who played no significant role in the work, for a variety of reasons. Until recently, it was standard for the head of a German department or institution to be listed as an author on a paper regardless of input. [Pearson, H. Credit where credit's due. Nature 440, 591-592 (30 March 2006) doi:10.1038/440591a ] The National Academy of Sciences, however, warns that such practices "dilute the credit due the people who actually did the work, inflate the credentials of those so 'honored,' and make the proper attribution of credit more difficult."

A phenomenon termed "ghost authorship" is sometimes discussed in relation to industry-initiated research. When an individual makes a substantial contribution to the research and is not listed as an author, he is considered a ghost author. Ghost authorship is considered problematic especially because it may be used to obscure the participation of researchers with conflicts of interest. A recent study revealed that two-thirds of industry-initiated randomized trials contained evidence of ghost authorship. [Cite journal
author = Gøtzsche, P.C., Hróbjartsson, A., Johansen, H.K., Haahr, M.T., Altman, D.G., Chan, A.-W.
year = 2007
title = Ghost authorship in industry-initiated randomised trials
journal = PLoS Medicine
volume = 4 | issue = 1 | pages = 47-52

Claiming authorship twice for the same work ("i.e." submission of findings to more than one journal) is usually regarded as misconduct, under what is known as the Ingelfinger rule, named after the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine 1967-1977, Franz Ingelfinger [] .

Authors are sometimes included in a list without their permission. [ Anonymous (presumably the editor of "Nature Materials" at that time). Authorship without authorization. Nature Materials 3, 743 (2004) doi:10.1038/nmat1264]

Order of authors in a list

Rules for the order of multiple authors in a list vary significantly from field to field, though they are more often consistent within a field of research. Kennedy, D. (1985) On Academic Authorship. Stanford University Research Policy Handbook Document 2.8. Accessed 04-07-2007. [] ] Some fields list authors in order of their degree of involvement in the work, with the most active contributors listed first. Others list them alphabetically. [Stubbs, C. "Nature" 388, 320 (24 July 1997); doi:10.1038/40958 .] Biologists tend to place a supervisor or lab head last in an author list; organic chemists might put him or her first. [Pearson, H. Credit where credit's due. Nature 440, 591-592 (30 March 2006) doi:10.1038/440591a]

Although listing authors in order of the involvement in the project seems straighforward, it often leads to conflict. A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that more than two-thirds of 919 corresponding authors disagreed with their coauthors regarding contributions of each author. [Ilakovac, V., "et al.", "Reliability of disclosure forms of authors' contributions," "CMAJ", 176:41, 2007.]

Responsibility of authors and of coauthors

Many guidelines and customs specify that all co-authors should be able to understand and support the major points of the paper. An author's reputation can be damaged when he allows his name to be used on paper he does not completely understand or was not intimately involved with. In a prominent case, an American stem cell researcher had his name listed on paper that was later revealed to be fraudulent. Although the researcher is not accused of participating in the fraud, a panel at his university found that "his failure to more closely oversee research with his name on it does make him guilty of 'research misbehavior.'" [ Holden, Constance. Schatten: Pitt Panel Finds ‘Misbehavior’ but Not Misconduct. Science. 17 February 2006, vol 311: 928. ]

All authors, including coauthors, are usually expected to have made reasonable attempts to check findings submitted for publication. In some cases coauthors of faked research have been accused of inappropriate behavior or research misconduct for failing to verify reports authored by others or by a commercial sponsor. Examples include the case of Gerald Schatten who co-authored with Hwang Woo-Suk, the case of Professor Geoffrey Chamberlain who co-authored papers with Malcolm Pearce (see [ ] ), and the coauthors with Jan Hendrik Schön at Bell Laboratories. More recent cases include [ Charles Nemeroff] , then the editor-in-chief of "Neuropsychopharmacology", and the so-called Sheffield Actonel affair ( [ Media Reports] ).

Additionally, authors are expected to keep all study data for later examination even after publication. Both scientific and academic censure can result from a failure to keep primary data; the case of Dr. Ranjit Chandra of Memorial University of Newfoundland provides a good example of this [ O'Neil-Yates, Chris: The Secret Life of Dr. Chandra. The National (CBC Newscast). 30 January 2006,] . Many scientific journals also require that authors provide information to allow readers to determine whether the authors may have commercial or non-commercial conflicts of interest. Outlined in the author disclosure statement for the American Journal of Human Biology [ [ Wiley InterScience :: JOURNALS :: American Journal of Human Biology ] ] , this is a policy more common in scientific fields where funding often comes from corporate sources. Authors are also commonly required to provide information about ethical aspects of research, particularly where research involves human or animal participants or use of biological material. Provision of incorrect information to journals may be regarded as misconduct. Financial pressures on universities have encouraged this type of misconduct. The majority of recent cases of alleged misconduct involving undisclosed conflicts of interest or failure of the authors to have seen scientific data involve collaborative research between scientists and biotechnology companies ( Blumsohn] ).

Anonymous and unclaimed authorship

Authors occasionally forego claiming authorship, for a number of reasons. Historically some authors have published anonymously to shield themselves when presenting controversial claims. A key example is Robert Chambers' anonymous publication of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, a speculative, pre-Darwinian work on the origins of life and the cosmos. The book argued for an evolutionary view of life in the same spirit as the late Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Lamarck had long been discredited among intellectuals by this time and evolutionary (or development) theories were exceedingly unpopular, except among the political radicals, materialists, and atheists - Chambers hoped to avoid Lamarck's fate.

Émilie du Châtelet began her career as a scientific author by submitting a paper in an annual competition held by the Paris Academy of Science; papers in this competition were submitted anonymously. Initially presenting her work without claiming authorship allowed her to have her work judged by established scientists while avoiding the bias against women in the sciences. She did not win the competition, but eventually her paper was published alongside the winning submissions, under her real name. [ Terrall, M. The uses of anonymity in the age of reason. "in" Scientific Authorship Biagioli, M. and Galison, P. eds. Routledge, New York, 2003, p. 91-112. ]

Scientists and engineers working in corporate and military organizations are often restricted from publishing and claiming authorship of their work because their results are considered secret property of the organization that employs them. One account describes the frustration of physicists working in nuclear weapons programs at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory - years after making a discovery they would read of the same phenomenon being "discovered" by a physicist unaware of the original, secret discovery of the phenomenon. [ Gusterson, H. The death of the authors of death - Prestige and creativity among nuclear weapons scientists. "in" Scientific Authorship Biagioli, M. and Galison, P. eds. Routledge, New York, 2003, p. 282-307. ]

Further reading

*Cite journal|last=Newman|first=Paul| title=Copyright Essentials for Linguists| month=June| year=2007| journal=Language Documentation and Conservation| volume=1| issue=1| pages=28–43| url=
*:(Includes elements of authorship and how they interact with copyright law)
*Molla, M., Gardner, T. 2007. Roll Credits: Sometimes the Authorship Byline Isn’t Enough. [] - a proposal to reform academic authorship along the line of film credits


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