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.

Definition of a “genuine contribution”

The requirements in Guideline 14 of the Code (“genuine, identifiable contribution”) have been extended as compared to the definition of authorship in Recommendation 11 of the DFG memorandum (“substantial contribution”). An author is now defined as someone who has made an identifiable (not necessarily substantial), genuine (original/individual) contribution to the scientific content of, for example, a publication (not necessarily the text) and is responsible for a scientifically relevant accomplishment. Whether or not a contribution is genuine and identifiable has to be assessed in each individual case and will depend on the respective subject area.

Focusing on a “significant” contribution does not always do sufficient justice to the scientific work done by the individual researcher. Collating a large quantity of partial results, each of which is identifiable and genuine in its own right, can also constitute a valuable contribution in its entirety, even if this individual contribution were not absolutely necessary for the success of the project as a whole. One good example of this shift in the definition of authorship is a worldwide gene database where numerous researchers enter individual pieces of information. Only the totality of the contributions makes it possible to derive insights: here, an individual who has contributed to the collection of data can be defined as an author if the nature of this person’s contribution to the collection of data is considered a genuine scientific contribution within the respective subject-specific community.

The comment belongs to the following categories:

GL14 (General)