Comment on:

The following comment refers to this/these guideline(s)

Guideline 14


An author is an individual who has made a genuine, identifiable contribution to the content of a research publication of text, data or software. All authors agree on the final version of the work to be published. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, they share responsibility for the publication. Authors seek to ensure that, as far as possible, their contributions are identified by publishers or infrastructure providers such that they can be correctly cited by users.


The contribution must add to the research content of the publication. What constitutes a genuine and identifiable contribution must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and depends on the subject area in question. An identifiable, genuine contribution is deemed to exist particularly in instances in which a researcher – in a research-relevant way – takes part in

  • the development and conceptual design of the research project, or
  • the gathering, collection, acquisition or provision of data, software or sources, or
  • the analysis/evaluation or interpretation of data, sources and conclusions drawn from them, or
  • the drafting of the manuscript.

If a contribution is not sufficient to justify authorship, the individual’s support may be properly acknowledged in footnotes, a foreword or an acknowledgement. Honorary authorship where no such contribution was made is not permissible. A leadership or supervisory function does not itself constitute co-authorship.

Collaborating researchers agree on authorship of a publication. The decision as to the order in which authors are named is made in good time, normally no later than when the manuscript is drafted, and in accordance with clear criteria that reflect the practices within the relevant subject areas. Researchers may not refuse to give their consent to publication of the results without sufficient grounds. Refusal of consent must be justified with verifiable criticism of data, methods or results.

Case study – Conflict of authorship: Presumption of authorship

Dealing with conflicts of authorship: co-authors state that a person is claiming authorship to which they are not entitled.

An example here is in the case of collaboration between the life sciences/natural sciences and the humanities: in the field of philosophy, only those scholars who write the main part of the manuscript are generally named as the authors. Researchers who have not contributed text are not regarded as authors; their contributions are referred to in footnotes. If a supervisor “only” gives feedback, this does not usually constitute authorship.

In the life/natural sciences, most authors make experimental contributions but contribute less to the actual writing of the text. Here, the manuscript is often written solely by the first and/or last author. Any humanities scholars involved may find it hard to understand why people who have not contributed any text should be listed as co-authors.

This is why it is crucial to agree early on which criteria should be applied to authorship – especially in connection with interdisciplinary projects. Projects often have a thematic focus, for example. The journal to which the manuscript is to be submitted can also be used as a source of guidance. If a project (in bioethics, for instance) is based in the field of medicine, and philosophers are brought in at a later stage, the criteria applicable to medicine are more likely to be applied. The philosophers should be informed of this right from the outset.

The comment belongs to the following categories:

GL14 (Practical examples)