I am the first author of a paper where the first two authors (me and Y) have contributed equally. (Yay, thanks alphabet! Hopefully I won't have to collaborate with some Dr. Aaron Aab in the future.) Of course, Y will put an equal contribution note on their CV, and prominently so.

Do I have to?

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    why would you want to omit the equal contribution? If then someone looks up your paper then it will see that there was another first author. Do you want to simply put your name first? I do not understand the question Jan 17, 2018 at 15:09
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    Dr. Aad probably did not see Dr. Aaboud coming... 2015 doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett 2017 doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevD.95.072003 Jan 17, 2018 at 19:50
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    The text in brackets and the "prominently so" flavour this question unnecessarily.
    – rul30
    Jan 17, 2018 at 20:58
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    @HermanToothrot mainly, I want to save space on my CV. My name is already first, on the paper and on the CV; I am wondering only about whether I need to add stars (or whatever other symbol) and an extra note explaining the stars.
    – bers
    Jan 18, 2018 at 5:48
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    Why would Y put such a note? Why would such notes ever be necessary? Surely it becomes completely impractical once you have more than a handful of papers? I think "equal contribution" notions should be extremely rare, not just on CVs, but everywhere.
    – user2768
    Jan 18, 2018 at 6:38

4 Answers 4


Let's be clear: You are trying to claim more credit than you are due by omitting information. Phrased like this, does this sound ethical to you? If it does, you may want to re-consider your standards. If not, you got your answer.

As a general rule in life, of course, you want to be treated the way you treat others. That means being generous in your praise, and modest in your claims. In the current context, you can't reasonably be expected to only put the "equal contribution" asterisk only next to the other author, but you'd probably be annoyed if your coauthor reversed the order of first and second author in their CV. So don't do the equivalent on yours.

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    I generally agree with your answer. But where did you get the ideas of putting only one asterisk, or reversing the author order? To be clear, my question is about using the author order as stated on the paper, while omitting all asterisks. I feel the only alternative would be to put all asterisks.
    – bers
    Jan 18, 2018 at 5:56
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    @bers Going the "extra mile" of putting asterisks for "equal contribution" on all your publications in a CV just feels better. It shows that some things such as fairness/honesty are important to you. More important than being able to claim all the fame you can get, even if such claims could be made within reason (because the author of the CV maybe "just didn't know" or care to add the asterisks).
    – Earthliŋ
    Jan 18, 2018 at 11:38
  • Oh, I had assumed that you had marked the "equal contribution" in the paper itself via an asterisk. This is common practice when you have many authors two of whom have contributed equally and could have been first authors. I had assumed that that was your case. Jan 19, 2018 at 4:20
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    No, you are totally right: The paper itself has asterisks for the equal contribution authors. But the paper has all kinds of other meta information, too, such as affiliations (1,2,3), corresponding authors (daggers), email addresses (envelope symbol) - all of these are usually omitted on a CV. Hence my question about the need to reproduce the asterisks. By the way, if I were really "trying to claim more than I'm due", I would not ask this question: my doubts about being able omit the asterisks are what made me come here.
    – bers
    Jan 19, 2018 at 8:47

It is only fair (and truthful) to mention the equal contribution because it is part of the information of the authorship of the paper. For example, you would not change the author order of the paper or omit authors when listing a work. Why would you remove the equal contribution then? Not to mention it is generally a faux pas to misrepresent your contribution to a work and probably would not leave a good impression to your current and future colleagues.

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    Moreover, you are trying to get hired. That means the people on that committee are looking for a new colleague. Of course that new person should have a good CV, but it should also be someone with whom you would want to be in a department and even collaborate. So mentioning the equal contribution is not only about avoiding a a faux pas, but also about showing that you are a team player. Jan 17, 2018 at 15:48
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    It is not common to indicate equal contribution while citing such papers. If you look up the authors profile on WoS, Google Scholar, ORCID,.... you won't get any information about equal contributions. Of course, in a CV you can make such remarks but if you do a standard citation this information would be lost.Therefore I wouldn't say it's not truthful or misrepresentation, but it definitely doesn't look very good. (But imo these first authorship "hype" is terrible, I'd wish all publishers would demand detailed lists of contribution so everyone can see who did what)
    – user64845
    Jan 17, 2018 at 22:17
  • @DSVA just a note, the paper in question has a very detailed list of individual contributions.
    – bers
    Jan 18, 2018 at 5:50

Yes, you can. No, you shouldn't, both because it is unethical and because it is not in your favour.

There's obviously nothing to stop you doing this. However, from an ethical point of view it's dubious because you are misrepresenting your role in the paper in an attempt to make yourself look better. This, quite apart from anything else, should stop you doing it. Perhaps you've heard that you should present the best possible view of yourself in your CV, and I guess this is true, but it's missing a word it should be best possible honest view of yourself. It's fine to paint a rosy picture; it's not fine to be dishonest.

But perhaps you don't care about ethics. Consider this: it is more likely than not that those hiring you will look up some of your papers, they may even ask you about your contribution to them during the interview. What kind of impression do you think this will make? There are essentially too possibilities here:

  1. You're the kind of sloppy individual who didn't care to correctly represent themselves on their CV.
  2. You're the kind of reprehensible individual who would play down others contributions in order to make themselves look better.

Would knowing either of these things about someone you're considering hiring make you more likely to hire them? I think that's very unlikely. So really there are only two circumstances under which it could help you to do this:

  1. If those hiring you are to busy (or too lazy) to check your publications before hiring you.
  2. You have so many publications that they're not going to check down to this one.

The former case, I would say, is unlikely - publications matter and for any worthwhile job, they'll take at least the passing look it takes to realise you've misrepresented yourself - and, in the second case, why are you being so petty to misrepresent this publication anyway? It really doesn't matter.

Finally, in my opinion the difference between first author, and joint first author, is unlikely to be the deciding factor between being hired and rejected anyway so any gain you imagine you could make is very slight.


I agree with the previous answers if you're in a field where "first author" indicates a more significant contribution to the paper than other authors, but, since you also mentioned the alphabet, let me be more explicit.

If you're in a field (like mine) where authors are listed alphabetically and, therefore, being the first author is information about your surname, not about your contribution to the paper, then you need not mention equal contributions. Indeed, in such a field, authors later in the list might have contributed much more than you, and everybody knows that.

If, on the other hand, "first author" means something in your field, so that people would get the impresssion, from your first-author status, that you are the main contributor to the paper, and if that impression is incorrect, then the ethical thing for you to do is to correct it, by mentioning which other author(s) contributed equally with you.

More generally, you should not have things in your CV that mislead readers into thinking you've achieved more than you actually have.

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    I mentioned the alphabet because, as is often the case, the authors with equal contributions appear in alphabetical order: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/59027 The iother authors are ordered by contribution.
    – bers
    Jan 18, 2018 at 5:54

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