The following comment refers to this/these guideline(s)
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.
Contributions that do not establish authorship
The following types of contributions are not sufficient in themselves to justify authorship:
Mere organisational responsibility for the acquisition of funding.
If group leaders or heads of institutes are named as co-applicants in the proposal for a research project but are not subsequently involved in carrying out the project and writing the manuscript, the contribution would usually not be sufficient to justify authorship.
A professor has acted as a co-applicant. Shortly after the project began, there was a rift and the professor left the institution. The other co-applicant and their group subsequently worked on the project for about five years, eventually publishing the article with the professor’s name mentioned in the acknowledgements for raising third-party funding and providing some patient data. The professor wanted to be listed as the last author, as originally planned, but could not prove that he had participated in or even enquired about the project in the five years after leaving. In this case, simply mentioning the professor in the acknowledgements would be in line with good research practice.
Training of staff in standard methods.
When researchers want to apply new methods, they first have to undergo the necessary training. Simply reading a description of the method will not always be sufficient since this is often very brief. What is more, methods are often adapted to the conditions of the laboratory in question. For this reason, methodological instruction is usually provided by colleagues who have already used the method frequently.
If methodological instruction is given (usually on a one-time basis) and the researcher then applies the method independently without the involvement of the person who provided the instruction, that person is not entitled to be named as an author.
Provision of standard investigation materials.
- This includes materials or equipment (e.g. laboratory materials and instrumentation) that are simply made available.
- It also includes explaining how to use a device, test or material, where there is otherwise no further substantive engagement in terms of implementing the research project.
Reading through a manuscript without making substantial contributions to its content does not justify authorship.
Researchers who read through a draft manuscript and provide critical suggestions for improvement do not necessarily or automatically become co-authors.
In the case of early career researchers, the question often arises as to whether a colleague, supervisor or group leader who has critically proofread and revised an article by an early career researcher should be listed as an author. An assessment must always be made on a case-by-case basis whether the contribution by the colleague, supervisor or group leader went beyond a one-time critical reading.
The answer to this question is once again closely linked to common practice within the discipline concerned. If a supervisor states that they should be listed as an author, for example, they should be asked to provide evidence of their contribution. It is also important to check whether the content of the article was changed substantially based on the critical comments.
Management of an institution or organisational unit in which the publication originated.
This criterion for justifying authorship results from the fact that heads of institutes in some disciplines often state that they are responsible for all publications produced at “their institution”. For this reason, they wish to read and approve all manuscripts prior to submission – and be named as co-author. However, the rule that applies here once again is that a single reading does not establish authorship. If no genuine, verifiable academic contribution was made, that person cannot assume any responsibility for the specific content of the publication.
The comment belongs to the following categories:
GL14 (Practical examples)