I recently worked on a research project for a client of my organization who was chosen for a highly prestigious lecture in my field (delivered annually). As part of convention, the lecturer is also afforded the opportunity to publish, ahead of the lecture, a single-author-only invited paper in a high-profile journal. From what I understand, no other authors are "allowed" to appear, but having been the sole person responsible for producing literally all tables, models, and visualizations in the manuscript, I still feel strange about this.

I wrote all code used to wrangle and analyze the data and am listed in the acknowledgments for "data and statistical support". Would it be acceptable (conventional, ethical, etc.) for me to list this publication alongside the others (for which I am listed as author) on my CV?

If so, what's the appropriate format? Can it be Only-Author, [Publication Title] or Only-Author et al., [Publication Title]?

This kind of scenario does happen somewhat frequently at my organization, so just thought I'd try to get some insight to avoid raising any eyebrows for grad program applications/future employers. Thanks in advance!

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    What do you mean with having "allowed" in quotation marks? Maybe there is some convention, but conventions can be broken if the situation justifies it. Feb 4, 2021 at 6:46
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    "This kind of scenario does happen somewhat frequently at my organization" Sounds like it's time to find a new organization. Feb 4, 2021 at 7:32
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    If there is no guideline, then there is no point why you cannot be second author of the paper. You might want to ask questions, until you are presented with some clear evidence why you cannot be an author of this paper. Feb 4, 2021 at 8:29
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    This situation seems extremely weird to me. The requirement that a paper be single-author only seems odd - it's hard to imagine why that would be there. But whatever the reason, if someone publishes a single-author paper then it has to be solely their work. If the content was primarily - or even partially - your work then your name has to be on the paper. If it's not then something is very wrong. Submitting it without your name is a clear case of misconduct by the person who's listed as the author. If the paper doesn't cite a previous publication of yours it could be grounds for withdrawal.
    – N. Virgo
    Feb 4, 2021 at 11:11
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    What I don't understand is that apparently there are single authors of paper created by at least one more author. This is the wrong side of the story.
    – Alchimista
    Feb 4, 2021 at 15:39

4 Answers 4


The other answers/comments provide accurate information from the perspective of academia, where authorship (including co-authorship) is an important metric for achievement and prestige, and where a lot of attention is therefore given to its fair allocation.

I'll add a perspective from someone who has jumped around between academia, industry, and the grey area in between. In many instances in industry and general-public-focused publications in particular, it is only the prestigious seniors who get "credit in the byline". Or sometimes the publication channel limits the number of authors that can be listed and the contributors are expected to sort it out. When I was starting in my field, I was multiple times the grunt who did a lot of the work for such papers but wasn't listed as author, and in recent years have sometimes become the prestigious senior.

It is good form*, where someone has done a significant part of the work but isn't listed as official co-author, for them to be credited in the text or at least a footnote, e.g. "the author acknowledges the significant contributions of John Q. Hardworker, Jr. to this paper". But whether this happens depends largely on how much priority the prestigious senior puts on it, and often editors will resist. In particular, if the editors feel they have scored a coup by getting Amy Y. Famous to write a paper on "Future trends in intradisciplinary factology", they may not want to dilute the prestige by an overly fulsome acknowledgement that implies it was effectively ghostwritten.

As others have said, you can't claim authorship for a paper where you are not a listed author in the "Publications" section of an academic CV. But you can -- and should -- mention it under "Additional research experience" or somesuch. For the purposes of job hunting -- when you are still fairly junior -- or grad school applications, it should be still be treated as very positive evidence of your ability to do and write about research. As you become more senior, for a while it will hang around your CV as a shoe-horned unloved stepchild as you build up more conventional publications. (Many of us have them, the "it-felt-like-a-great-accomplishment-at-the-time-but-I-didn't-quite-realize-it's-not-peer-reviewed" type of publication) You will eventually axe it from your CV once it's long enough for it not to matter.

I'd like to hope the "prestigious journal" in question isn't an academic journal, since if they are, they really ought to know better. So probably even you had been listed, it wouldn't have counted as peer-reviewed.

*I recognize from the perspective of academia, it is much more than "good form", it is an obligation. I'm deliberately using this weaker statement here to emphasize that the culture outside or on the boundaries of academia can be different.


Would it be acceptable (conventional, ethical, etc.) for me to list this publication alongside the others (for which I am listed as author) on my CV?

No. If you are not on the author list in the publication, never imply that you are on the author list in your CV. It's dishonest, even if you deserved to be on the author list.


Assuming that you really cannot be an author of this paper (about which I have doubts, see my comments), you cannot list it as a publication in your CV.

An alternative, ethical way of taking credit for your efforts would be as follows: You can have a separate section in your CV called "Additional research experiences". There you could mention this project and the tasks that you performed in it.

This would be worth more than nothing, but also less than a publication.


What does "producing the models" mean to you?

Did you choose something from a drop-down menu and massage the code a bit?

Or did you formulate a mathematical model entirely from scratch based on this person's verbal description of the relevant assumptions?

I grant it will be somewhere in between, but I am just sketching the end points of a continuum of possibilities. On the one end, you should just quit yer bitching, but on the other, yes, I agree you have been had, and if this is a structural/systematic problem in your organisation, you could try and bring this to the attention of its leadership.

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