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In many cases it so happens that multiple workers are involved in a research problem under the supervision of group leader. We will assume that group leader is the corresponding author of a manuscript. Now, I have the following queries:

  1. Who will decide who the first author will be? I am talking about a scenario when all the co-authors are PhD holders. If there is a dispute, who has to resolve and how?

  2. Who decides the sequence of co-authors in the manuscript, first author or corresponding author? Is there any international code of ethics in this regard?

  3. Again, we have to assume that it is practically impossible to quantify the contributions of respective co-authors in a well-funded, well-qualified research group. And qualification sometimes comes along with ego. How can the corresponding author decide that the second co-author has contributed more than the third co-author, and the ordering will not change (whosoever had decided based on point 2)?

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    Welcome tot the Academia Stack Exchange You should note that in many fields & locations the basic assumptions you've made here aren't often true. For example it's fairly common for the corresponding author to be the person who writes the actual words, or the member of staff closest to that. – origimbo May 10 at 13:41
  • Welcome. Mentioning your research field would help a lot, as the order of authors varies. – Tommi Brander May 10 at 14:37
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The meaning of author order varies across fields. In some fields, authors are listed alphabetically. In others, the order reflects some sort of perceived contribution. Some people prefer to be the last author.

The only unified code, and it is unwritten at that, regarding author order, is to talk to your authors and be considerate to their feelings. It is academic misconduct to leave someone out as an author. Similarly, it is wrong to list someone who should not be an author. This means that it is up to everyone to decide. If your research group is so disfunctional that this is hard, have those conversations at the start. In fact, I advise everyone to have those conversations at the start and during the process just to keep hard feelings from developing.

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As far as I know, the only "international code of ethics" in this regard is that all authors must agree on the author ordering, or the paper cannot be published.

Who will decide who the first author will be? I am talking about a scenario when all the co-authors are PhD holders. If there is a dispute, who has to resolve and how?

If there is a dispute, they have to negotiate until they find an ordering that everyone agrees with. Nobody has the right to put your name in a certain position without the consent of you and all the other authors. (It is irrelevant here who holds a PhD or not; the authors have the same rights no matter what kind of degrees they have or don't have.)

If the authors can't reach agreement, they can't publish the paper. A subset of the authors could decide instead to publish a new paper with the remaining authors' contributions removed or recreated from scratch.

Of course, the authors could agree that they are going to let a certain person decide (the corresponding author or whoever), and that they will follow that person's decision.

Commonly, the journal will require every author to sign a statement (or click a check box) that they approve all aspects of the submitted paper, including the author ordering. So if anyone disagrees with the ordering, they withhold consent and the paper doesn't proceed until agreement is reached. Or, in some cases, the corresponding author is asked to certify that all authors consent. It would be extremely unethical for them to certify this if the authors do not all agree to the author ordering.

Who decides the sequence of co-authors in the manuscript, first author or corresponding author? Is there any international code of ethics in this regard?

Same answer.

Again, we have to assume that it is practically impossible to quantify the contributions of respective co-authors in a well-funded, well-qualified research group. And qualification sometimes comes along with ego. How can the corresponding author decide that the second co-author has contributed more than the third co-author, and the ordering will not change (whosoever had decided based on point 2)?

As above, the corresponding author can't make any such decision unilaterally.

  • "As far as I know, the only "international code of ethics" in this regard is that all authors must agree on the author ordering, or the paper cannot be published." I'm guessing that holding a paper ransom to improve your name's position on the authors list is what would be best described as a "career limiting move", right? ;) – nick012000 May 11 at 6:40
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Since you don't specify the field, I'm not sure how helpful this will be to you, but recently there has been a movement in economics to encourage the publication of papers under a system of certified random author ordering. You can read more about this trend at https://www.aeaweb.org/journals/policies/random-author-order.

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