Publication Practices and Responsible Authorship

Using proper publication practices is an important element in professional ethics and errors in this area can seriously damage the reputation of scholars who otherwise are engaged in outstanding research.

Authorship is on of the core topics for the Office of Research Integrity at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. Their authorship portion of their web site is at

http://ori.dhhs.gov/education/products/rcr_authorship.shtml . In particular the module on Responsible Authorship and Peer Review at http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/rcr/rcr_authorship/ is highly recommended.

Authorship

One of the most fundamental issues in publication is the determination of who should be the authors for the paper. The order in which the names of the author appear can also be meaningful and problematic.

All authors for a paper should have made a substantial contribution to the paper.  The types of contributions vary widely but should include individuals who:

  • provide fundamental concepts or ideas for the research,
  • who make significant contributions to the writing of the paper or
  • who make substantial contribution to the analysis of the data.

In addition, it may be appropriate to include at authors those individuals who:

  • perform substantial laboratory work for the project.

However, not everyone who is involved with a project is necessarily an author. For example individuals who

  • provide primary funding for the research or
  • perform typing or basic laboratory support work

should not be included as authors.

 

This is not an exclusive list and authorship is a problematic area, which is best handled at early stages of the research.  Difference of opinion on how the author list is determined varies greatly and one should not hesitate to discuss authorship at the initial stages of a significant project.

A second authorship issue is that authors should understand that “Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for appropriate portions of the content.” It is good to remember that your name will appear on the paper and your good name may be affected if there are problems.

Publication practices include proper selection of authors, but also includes professional expectations for conduct.  For example it is almost universally accepted that a paper should not be submitted to two journals at the same time.  It is a common expectation that two different papers with similar content should not be submitted.  One exception to this is the republication of results from thesis and dissertations, but even in this case, the language for the paper should be distinct from the language in the dissertation.  Posting your work on a non peer reviewed site is generally not considered a publication and submission of that work to a peer reviewed journal is generally accepted practice.  When in doubt you should contact the editor or associate editor handling your paper to insure that journal expectations are being met.