I am editing a manuscript for a journal that I just received and which hasn't been sent out to reviewers yet. To me, there were two aspects of the paper that irritated me a bit. The first being that it was submitted by a single author, who mentioned two names in the acknowledgements and thanked them for 'conducting the experiments' and 'providing the data' reported in the paper. This strikes me as quite unusual. Even if they were student assistants, in my field, the practice would usually be to make them co-authors of the paper. On top of that the single author's contribution is not fully clear or explicitly stated. Would it make sense to point this out and ask for author contributions? Or even suggest inclusion of these names as co-authors? How would you best go about this? I should note that the journal provides the following guidelines:
The Publisher does not prescribe the kinds of contributions that warrant authorship. It is recommended that authors adhere to the guidelines for authorship that are applicable in their specific research field. In absence of specific guidelines it is recommended to adhere to the following guidelines*:
All authors whose names appear on the submission
made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data; or the creation of new software used in the work;
drafted the work or revised it critically for important intellectual content;
approved the version to be published; and
agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
In absence of specific instructions and in research fields where it is possible to describe discrete efforts, the Publisher recommends authors to include contribution statements in the work that specifies the contribution of every author in order to promote transparency. These contributions should be listed at the separate title page.
Examples of such statement(s) are shown below:
• Free text:
All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by [full name], [full name] and [full name]. The first draft of the manuscript was written by [full name] and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.
[...] For articles that are based primarily on the student’s dissertation or thesis, it is recommended that the student is usually listed as principal author: A Graduate Student’s Guide to Determining Authorship Credit and Authorship Order, APA Science Student Council 2006
I am thinking of quoting this to the author and requesting explicit clarification of the authorship contributions.
Lastly, the author did not share data/analysis, and wrote that these are only available upon reasonable request due to pricacy concerns. I think it would be possible to anonymise the data. Can I insist they share it?
I have worked as a reviewer for many years, but my editor appointment was quite recent, so I am still figuring out what I can and cannot suggest and demand. I want to use my position to improve transparency, repoducibility etc, but not abuse my power.