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Several astronomers are building up the grass-roots / volunteer organisation Astronomers for Planet Earth (raising awareness for the climate crisis from an astronomical perspective).

Most, but not all of us have institutional affiliations with various universities, but we would like to (also) use our grass-roots organisation as affiliation in our publications -- and we are wondering if we may do so. Googling and searching on this site did not lead to an answer.

Does anyone know what the requirements are on an organisation to be listed as academic affiliation?

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    Technically the affiliation on a paper doesn't need to be an academic affiliation. For example it's common to see papers with companies listed as affiliation (e.g. in CS from Google, Microsoft, IBM...)
    – Erwan
    Nov 24 at 18:54
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    I think Microsoft and other companies like that are academic affiliations. They are companies that do academic research as part of their business.
    – toby544
    Nov 24 at 18:56
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    Your home institution may be very annoyed thet they were who paid the research (at least your salary) and still some other organization, that did not contribute a penny, gets a spot in the affiliations. This may hurt your institutions in various evaluations and cost some actual money.
    – Vladimir F
    Nov 25 at 8:51
  • A similar "use case" is the Cogitamus Laboratory cogitamus.fr/indexen.html which has no physical existence but is cited by some researchers as an affiliation, as a form of protest against bibliometry.
    – a3nm
    Nov 25 at 14:28
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    @a3nm That is surely possible but may as well be against your work obligations in your work contract and I could even lead to contract termination. In paticular, I would not remain working here for too long if I did this.
    – Vladimir F
    Nov 25 at 15:32
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While there do not seem to be strict formal requirements for what can be put as an academic affiliation on a paper, there is a general understanding that the institution given as an affiliation somehow "hosted" the research that is described in the publication. Examples from publishers are (highlighting mine):

That means if your membership in the grass-roots organization was not substantial to the research being done, you should not list them as an affiliation. If you do, I think it may be taken similarly as someone listing a political party they are member of, or maybe the gym down the street where they have a membership card.

You should also realize that while the affiliations that are listed may seem not so relevant from the view of the author, they are relevant to the institutions, as this information may be aggregated in various institutional evaluations (see e.g. https://academia.stackexchange.com/a/117431/3890, KAU is accused of hiring well-known professors to boost university rankings by adding affiliation. Is it ethical to accept this kind of offer?).

If the organization can not be listed as affiliation, you could still check whether they can be mentioned in the acknowledgments. This would be justified if for example the interactions with other researchers, through that organization, were somehow helpful to conducting the research or just making the publication.

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  • Thanks, this is a helpful answer. So basically it boils down to the question whether we are "just" a network (that can be acknowledged) or a (virtual) institute that actually hosts the research. If people work on our projects in their spare time and from their home office, it is probably easier to argue that our organisation should actually be the affiliation than if they do this as part of their paid outreach work in their institute. Nov 25 at 10:54
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    "You should also realize that while the affiliations that are listed may seem not so relevant from the view of the author, they are relevant to the institutions": institutions will care that they are listed, but I don't see why institutions would care about what other institutions are listed. So my impression is that you have no reason to be blamed for listing "too many" institutions.
    – a3nm
    Nov 25 at 14:27
  • @a3nm If there is some productivity score, it could be distributed as 1/nauthors per every author and $1/nauthors/naffiliations$ for every affiliation of a certain researcher. In that case, the institute looses some of their productivity score. The algorithm may, of course, be different in many ways, e.g., by distributing more to certain authors and less to other ones.
    – Vladimir F
    Nov 25 at 15:31
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    @VladimirF: I agree -- but for now I have never seen anything of the sort, I have only seen institutions caring about being in the list, not in which "share" they got. So I agree this can be a concern, but a speculative one.
    – a3nm
    Nov 25 at 15:33
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    @Leonard Burtscher I don't understand the last sentence of your comment. For your mainstream academic research work (not activism), I don't think you can claim that Astronomers for Planet Earth hosts the research.
    – toby544
    Nov 25 at 16:54
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John Briggs listed a pub as his affiliation:




enter image description here

(doi: 10.1088/0022-3700/13/23/008)

enter image description here

It is up to the journal, and most if not all journals will allow you to list "Astronomers for Planet Earth" as your affiliation.

People who are telling you outright not to do it, probably missed this part of your question:

"Most, but not all of us have institutional affiliations with various universities, but we would like to (also) use our grass-roots organisation as affiliation in our publications -- and we are wondering if we may do so."

For those without any other affiliation, the journal would probably ask more questions about their lack of affiliation than about the fact that the affiliation is "Astronomers for Planet Earth". Then if the people with no other affiliation are using "Astronomers for Planet Earth" as their affiliation and you are not, that would not seem right, so you should feel free to do it if you want to and the journal allows it (most likely, if you submit the paper with this affiliation, they will not even mention it in the slightest way, so you're probably worrying about nothing, but it's good that you're playing it safe and asking the community here).

Generally, institutions can get angry at you for putting their name on your paper if you weren't actually working there, but in the case where "Astronomers for Planet Earth" is someone's only affiliation and the organization wants you to list their name in the paper, your only obstacle would be whether or not the journal allows it and most likely they will. Some academics might not take you seriously if they haven't heard of your affiliation, and whether or not it's a good idea to do this will depend on many other factors, but whether or not you can do it is up to the journal and the answer is almost certainly a "yes".

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  • I'm guessing that the pub was doing work on the ionization of alcohol or something, from that abstract?
    – nick012000
    Nov 25 at 6:50
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    @nick012000 I think the pub was doing work on keeping John Briggs well-fed and watered. I assume the affiliation here is basically a "you can find me at...".
    – dbmag9
    Nov 25 at 11:58
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    Why do you claim that the answer is almost certainly yes, you can do it? If you are basing that on the Briggs example, that was one article 41 years ago. silvado's answers shows two publishers' websites that say the affiliation has to be where you conducted the research, which means OP would not be allowed to list Astronomers for Planet Earth.
    – toby544
    Nov 25 at 16:46
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    @toby544 I didn't say that based on the Briggs example, I said it based on 100s of examples where the authors put something similar to OP (not a joke like Briggs did). You can put whatever you want as an affiliation, and you might be asked to declare no conflict of interest if the place sounds like a for-profit company, and you might be questioned if it doesn't look like a real place, but "Astronomers for Planet Earth" will quite certainly be okay (and if it's not, the worst that happens is that the editor allows the paper submission and just not the affiliation). Nov 25 at 16:59
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    @nick012000 Briggs may have been enjoying some alcohol at that institution when he wrote a critical equation on a napkin.
    – hobbs
    Nov 25 at 21:46
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I'd say, go for it. The worst that can happen is that you are asked to remove it.

Does anyone know what the requirements are on an organisation to be listed as academic affiliation?

If there are requirements for affiliations, they are set by the individual publisher. I'm pretty sure there is no universal requirement, especially if you act in good faith. The affiliation is basically just an additional identifier for you.

However, there is a requirement to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and that includes being open about affiliations impacting that. Since your grass-roots organization has a non-scientific and even somewhat political mission, I'd argue that you should disclose it if your study is related to that mission, even if only marginally.

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    It's not basically just an additional identifier. It is your employer or another institution where you have a proper academic affiliation. The answer by silvado is good.
    – toby544
    Nov 24 at 18:58
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The requirements are up to the publishers. But I don't think you should do it. How would you feel if people started listing social movements or political groups as affiliations?

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    That's a good point. What if we start reading publications by authors affiliated to grass-root MAGA movements? "The flat-earther society"? "White-supremacy-action-group"?
    – Dilworth
    Nov 24 at 12:24
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    @Dilworth I would prefer to know that the author of a manuscript about astronomy is a flat-earther. (A more common and serious example are people from "institutes" funded by christian sects who publish articles about evolution.)
    – Roland
    Nov 24 at 12:49
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    @Roland, precisely! So you agree with this answer that providing such non-academic ideological-driven affiliations may hurt the OP. And they better stick to their academic institute alone.
    – Dilworth
    Nov 24 at 15:56
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    @Dilworth No, I don't agree. If this could hurt the OP, it's most likely because it highlights a conflict of interest, which should be disclosed anyway.
    – Roland
    Nov 24 at 16:02
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    I agree with Dilworth, though the possibility of anti-scientific affiliations like the flat-earther society is not really the point. I was talking about all social movements, political groups, and non-academic organizations. Listing Astronomers for Planet Earth could hurt OP because it would annoy many readers, who do not think that a list of affiliations is the right place to mention this kind of organization.
    – toby544
    Nov 24 at 18:54

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