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I had a collaboration with a group and a paper is published as the result of this study which includes many experts. The study was done in groups where each group had a leader, we had multiple meetings, passed our research notes according to our study, the group leaders then wrote the paper. However when the paper was submitted we were not informed, we were informed only after it was accepted.

I am included as Consortia, which goes like: Author1, Author2,..., Author8 & Consortia

and then in the paper the names of the Consortia is included in a table. The main author says we are co-authors but how does it work? Am I an actual author? Can I list this paper as my paper? I am not asking for a mere CV but I need to add this to a formal system that keeps track of my papers. I could just skip doing so (and not get points from the paper) but then again I actually should include it as I also represent my affiliation.

I have seen that this is often done in natural sciences or in companies research teams. Can anyone who has experience / knows how it works let me know?

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  • 3
    Surely your consortia has rules for this? Nov 28 '21 at 19:07
  • It is not an organization or company or lab. We are just a bunch of researchers with different affiliations that were invited to the study.
    – dusa
    Nov 28 '21 at 19:14
  • Doesn't change my comment Nov 28 '21 at 19:15
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    Then surely we don't have one.
    – dusa
    Nov 28 '21 at 19:17
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Yes, you are author, even though your lead authors did not include you sufficiently in the publication process.

I've been a lead author on a number of papers with consortium authorship, the largest of which has a little over 2,700 co-authors. The purpose of consortium authorship is explicitly to acknowledge that a large number of people are indeed co-authors on a study, while at the same time keeping the formatting and submission management tractable.

In the studies that I have participated in, we have used a three-tier system of authorship:

  • Primary authors are the lead authors who did most of the actual organizing and writing.
  • Secondary authors made personal and clearly distinguished contributions to the project, but not at the level of a primary author.
  • Consortium authors are all of the others who meet CRediT standards of authorship. In most cases I have seen, this means they contributed to data acquisition in some manner, which may or may not be further distinguished.

The actual writing mostly gets done by the primary authors, who obtain specific inputs as needed from the secondary authors and circulate drafts with them until the primary and secondary groups are satisfied. The paper then goes out to the full consortium for review and inputs with a deadline after which non-response will be taken as equivalent to approval (typically ~1 week). We do the same for every round of revision, though once a consortium worth of co-authors have looked at something, it usually sails through peer review pretty easily (desk rejections are a different story).

From what you have written, I do think that the primary authors of your paper have failed in their duty to keep their co-authors appropriately in the loop for the writing and approval process. This can both feel problematic and can create problems with regards to the ICMJE recommendations for authorship. Consortium authors obviously pass the first criterion for contribution, but if they are systematically excluded from the drafting process that can create a problem with regards to the other three criteria (drafting/critique, approval, responsibility). The process that I describe, however, does invite the full consortium of co-authors to critique, raise objections to submission, and shares the responsibility for flagging issues, thus allowing consortium authors to be full and proper authors by ICMJE standards.

Let me close with an analogy that I find very useful: I like to think about authorship like movie credits. The primary authors are the stars and producer and director, the secondary authors are the minor parts, and the consortium authors are all the rest of the crew. You darned well belong in the movie credits, and should be listed in all of the appropriate databases, and it's the database's problem if they haven't caught up to using CRediT to distinguish between directors and makeup artists.

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    Thank you very much for telling me about how consortium authorship works at established organizations and I understand it. However, I just figured out on WoS I am not an author because it does not return my name, and since my university / national higher education system works with WoS, again, it does not return my name. I have an option to enter manually but then again I don't want to put myself in a difficult position as if I am doing some fraud (because I doubt anyone will bother to go through the actual paper)
    – dusa
    Nov 28 '21 at 20:30
  • 1
    Also yes, you are right about the publication process, I should have been included in the draft process and also should have been informed about the submission plan. Also, this is not a CERN paper, we don't have thousands of people, It is about 50, I did collaborate with the author with another group and we added every single person even when their contribution was much more minimal. So I am frustrated to be honest.
    – dusa
    Nov 28 '21 at 20:32
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    @dusa Personally, I don't bother with WoS because my position doesn't bother with it as a means of quantification either. If WoS did affect me, however, I would go ahead and do a manual entry, since you are indeed an author.
    – jakebeal
    Nov 28 '21 at 21:06
  • 2
    With regards to consortium scale: the same rules apply just as well for smaller consortia. I've got another paper in revision right now that uses the same structure for a mere 27 authors, with 8 primary/secondary authors and 19 consortium authors. My personal approach is to use the consortium structure whenever you end up with a study structure where it makes sense to separate secondary authors and consortium authors, which means that I also have some non-consortium papers with more authors (30-40 range) than my smaller consortium papers.
    – jakebeal
    Nov 28 '21 at 21:10
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    So far as I can tell, none of the database services are very good at collecting consortium information, since journals are currently extremely inconsistent and heterogeneous in how they handle it. You should assume you'll need to add it manually anywhere you care about.
    – jakebeal
    Nov 28 '21 at 21:30
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Yes you are an author, but you might choose to cite yourself as “J. Smith (Consortium Author)” or something similar on your CV and in presentations and such. I have a colleague that calls herself out this way. Her self-citation this way jumped out at me while we were working on a report this year.

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    If the consortium has a name, use that!
    – Bill Barth
    Nov 29 '21 at 15:55
7

As you describe it, I'd consider it a breach of ethics if you aren't considered an author: "passed research notes, meetings, ...". Moreover the lead author considers you to be authors.

Note that there are papers (often from CERN) that have hundreds of authors, all of whom were essential in some way to a large study. There are a few in which the list of authors is longer than the body of the paper itself. A google search will turn up a few of these.

Note that I don't assume you were a group "leader", but do assume you weren't just hired to carry out a defined function (and paid).

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    Indeed I am frustrated about this to be honest. The notes passed were our notes by the way, we did brainstorms, delphi studies, meetings etc. The group leaders then sort of put it all together and did the writing. I was not paid, I was invited as an active researcher in this domain.
    – dusa
    Nov 28 '21 at 20:27
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    I do see these consortium notation but then again I just figured out on WoS I am not an author because it does not return my name, and since my university / national higher education system works with WoS, again, it does not return my name. I have an option to enter manually but then again I don't want to put myself in a difficult position as if I am doing some fraud.
    – dusa
    Nov 28 '21 at 20:27
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    It seems the "lead" author will back up up. Lots of questions here are just the opposite. Someone should be included but isn't. I see no red flags in your case. Note that automated systems (WoS) are imperfect.
    – Buffy
    Nov 28 '21 at 20:35
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    Well the Consortia notation is used in some domains, and the lead author is in a much different domain than me. So I doubt they will make changes, or whether they are wrong (though it was very unnecessary as the total would be about 50 authors, not thousands like a CERN paper - so I think the decent thing would be adding everyone as an author not a group of authors) at the same time I don't think this Consortia notation is working as it intended - even though WoS is imperfect, lots of systems rely on that.
    – dusa
    Nov 28 '21 at 20:42

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