This recent paper is about birds of prey spreading fires. Some of the co-authors are firefighters which basically tell their personal experience as eyewitnesses to the behavior of these birds but do not present any hard evidence.

How can this be considered enough for co-authorship? Is this an accepted practice in social sciences?

  • 6
    Is this question really about authorship or are you complaining about their scientific methods? I don't see any indication in the article that those co-authors' only contributions to the manuscript were their observations, and there are other observers mentioned who are not co-authors. I might have missed something since I did not fully read the linked work.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 22:23
  • 6
    Eyewitness accounts are not evidence?
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 22:24
  • 5
    I'm voting to close because I don't think this question is actually about authorship at all, it seems to be a critique of a paper. I'll retract my close vote if the OP is able to clarify.
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Feb 1, 2018 at 22:26
  • 2
    @HermanToothrot where did Jon say anything about reproducibility?
    – G_B
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 9:59
  • 7
    @HermanToothrot - I'm the only person in the lab. I read a meter, write down the reading in a notebook, and publish results based on the meter reading. I'm in a forest. I see an animal doing something, write that down in a notebook, and publish results based on what I saw. Very little science is performed in front of an independent audience - it is all eyewitness accounts.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


I think the true answer depends on what the other co-authors think. In my field and particularly for application-oriented papers and case studies, we often add industry representatives or clinical staffs as co-authors, even when they don't contribute much to the writing of the paper.

We do this because it fosters good relationships, demonstrates their facilitation of the analytical work, and (in our belief) is good a "people-practice."

For others, we simply list them in an 'acknowledgements' section with some comments.

It all depends.

  • 1
    It also recognizes them as "field observers" and their role in bringing the issue to the scientific community as worthy of study. Without them, in this case anyway, there would be no research, no paper.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jul 18, 2018 at 20:57

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