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I'm working on research that should be sent to publishing in the next couple of weeks. The research is done by me and a friend of mine; we are both under the same professor. This started as an attempt to improve on another paper which I'm the third writer on, but it quickly turned into a new idea which we will try to publish as a separate paper; because of this weird sequence of events, we didn't talk about who takes the lead. I'm taking tasks on almost every field of the research (building taxonomy, writing code, running experiments, writing the paper itself, etc.). I'm also considering the amount of ideas and implementations that wouldn't be done if not for me. I would say that overall my contribution is around 40%.

In my field, it's common to have an "equal contribution" footnote if two or more authors contributed equally. What is the common standard to ask for an "equal contribution" footnote?

  • i don't understand what asking for equal contribution means, or why you would ask for it if, by your own estimate is not equal? – Azor Ahai May 8 at 18:42
  • Equal contribution regards to the order of authors of the paper. Sometimes you would see a * next to the two first authors' name and below the writing "equal contribution", this stands for that the order of the first two authors is irrelevant. see support.jmir.org/hc/en-us/articles/… – Mosh May 8 at 20:29
  • gotcha, I usually call it "shared first authorship." What about my second question? – Azor Ahai May 8 at 20:56
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    Mathematician's remark that these percentages can be deceiving: a 66.6%-33.3% split sounds quite close to 50-50, but in practice it means that one person worked twice as much as the other. – Federico Poloni May 9 at 8:58
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    @JiK Sure, that's another can of worms: how much work is having the idea? How much work is writing the paper? How much work is coding, making experiments, cleaning beakers in a lab? What if writing certain code takes 1 day to experienced researchers but 1 week to students? – Federico Poloni May 13 at 13:01
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I don't think there's a common standard for how to settle this after the fact, at least not one spanning all fields where author order matters. But my rule of thumb would be this: If your estimation of your coauthor's contribution exceeds your estimation of your own contribution by more than the (likely also estimated) margin of error of your estimates, then you probably shouldn't ask for equal contribution. If the balance is too close to call, or the contributions are too difficult to compare (which is often the case in a theorist/experimentalist collaboration, for example) then sure, having a discussion about it is appropriate. (Just be open to updating your estimates based on the discussion.)

You could also consider including an "author contributions" statement in the paper to clarify who did what.

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I think it's pretty clear that your buddy is going to be first author and you second, from the context (adding the asterisk, also that you even have to ask). My advice would be not to ask for the co-first-authorship. If it's offered, fine. But I would not request it. Instead find another project, where you can be first.

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