One of the hot-button issues on this site is standards for coauthorship, especially variants of the question "Must I automatically include my thesis advisor as a coauthor on all my papers?"

Since these questions (sensibly) come up again and again, I thought it would be useful to have a collection of links to various ethical standards for coauthorship. To the best of my knowledge, these standards will apply only to one particular academic field and/or to one geographic region. For instance, most of my colleagues would point to this statement by the American Mathematical Society. It applies (explicitly) to mathematics and (implicitly, I think) to mathematics done in the US and by Americans.

I was thinking of a community-wiki question where each answer posts a link to ethical standards in some academic field(s) and geographic region(s). To make the answers better, I would ask that respondents:

  • Quote in their answer the passages most relevant to coauthorship.
  • Please avoid "alphabet soup". Above I wrote "American Mathematical Society" rather than "AMS": mathematicians will know what AMS means, but most other academics presumably won't. Some other answers here refer to things like "BMJ": I certainly didn't know what that was.
  • (Ideally) Give commentary as to whether/how the standards in their answer differ from those posted in other answers.

The more comprehensive the list we can compile, the more authoritatively we can point future questioners to this list and tell them what is or is not an ethical practice.

  • 2
    Typically, SE discourages users to intentionally post CW-style questions, which this definitely is (as you state yourself). I realize that we often do things differently here, but we haven't differed in this respect yet. Personally don't think we should start compiling list-style questions, for all the same reasons why CW questions are disliked (need for constant maintenance, ever-increasing scope of discussion). For that reason, I don't think this question is in scope for this site.
    – eykanal
    May 13, 2014 at 17:56
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    @eykanal: The appropriate place to discuss these issues is the meta site. I find your objections disappointing bordering on exasperating, but if you post a question there I will try to respond to it. May 13, 2014 at 18:04
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    Post added on Meta. @Pete, I generally would post something similar to the above on the question before posting to meta, particularly given that this issue has already been discussed.
    – eykanal
    May 13, 2014 at 18:50
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    @StrongBad: I think that the two questions are related but not duplicates of each other. May 13, 2014 at 21:42
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    @CharlesMorisset While a good idea, many of the questions we get on this site can already be answered with a trip to Wikipedia, which suggests that the existence of that article isn't necessarily sufficient.
    – Fomite
    May 14, 2014 at 16:22

3 Answers 3


This is excerpted from the Ethical Guidelines of the American Mathematical Society:


The public reputation for honesty and integrity of the mathematical community and of the Society is its collective treasure and its publication record is its legacy.

The knowing presentation of another person's mathematical discovery as one's own constitutes plagiarism and is a serious violation of professional ethics. Plagiarism may occur for any type of work, whether written or oral and whether published or not.

The correct attribution of mathematical results is essential, both because it encourages creativity, by benefiting the creator whose career may depend on the recognition of the work and because it informs the community of when, where, and sometimes how original ideas entered into the chain of mathematical thought. To that end, mathematicians have certain responsibilities, which include the following:

To endeavor to be knowledgeable in their field, especially about work related to their research;

To give appropriate credit, even to unpublished materials and announced results (because the knowledge that something is true or false is valuable, however it is obtained); To publish full details of results that are announced without unreasonable delay, because claiming a result in advance of its having been achieved with reasonable certainty injures the community by restraining those working toward the same goal;

To use no language that suppresses or improperly detracts from the work of others;

To correct in a timely way or to withdraw work that is erroneous.

A claim of independence may not be based on ignorance of widely disseminated results. On appropriate occasions, it may be desirable to offer or accept joint authorship when independent researchers find that they have produced identical results. All the authors listed for a paper, however, must have made a significant contribution to its content, and all who have made such a contribution must be offered the opportunity to be listed as an author. Because the free exchange of ideas necessary to promote research is possible only when every individual's contribution is properly recognized, the Society will not knowingly publish anything that violates this principle, and it will seek to expose egregious violations anywhere in the mathematical community.

[Emphasis added.]

  • 3
    The boldfaced sentence seems too narrow to me. If I work on a project with someone, then I think they deserve to be a coauthor regardless of whether they wind up making a significant contribution to the content of the final paper. I think coauthorship is warranted because there's an implied contract when people work together that, in exchange for freely sharing their ideas and spending time on the problem, everyone will be a coauthor. Am I interpreting the AMS statement too literally, or worse, am I being unethical? I thought something like this occurred for the Taylor-Wiles paper. May 14, 2014 at 16:16
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    @Michael Zieve: you are applying it a little too strictly, in my opinion as a mathematician. There can't be a general rule for every collaboration, but if two researchers together work all the way up to the edge of a result, and then one researcher has the final crucial insight, it's hard to say that the other person made no significant contribution to the theorem. Sep 24, 2014 at 12:03

Excerpt from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, which governs most medical journal submissions, as well as those in most allied health fields, like public health. The full text is here: http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html

The ICMJE recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement 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 addition to being accountable for the parts of the work he or she has done, an author should be able to identify which co-authors are responsible for specific other parts of the work. In addition, authors should have confidence in the integrity of the contributions of their co-authors.

All those designated as authors should meet all four criteria for authorship, and all who meet the four criteria should be identified as authors. Those who do not meet all four criteria should be acknowledged—see Section II.A.3 below. These authorship criteria are intended to reserve the status of authorship for those who deserve credit and can take responsibility for the work. The criteria are not intended for use as a means to disqualify colleagues from authorship who otherwise meet authorship criteria by denying them the opportunity to meet criterion #s 2 or 3. Therefore, all individuals who meet the first criterion should have the opportunity to participate in the review, drafting, and final approval of the manuscript.

  • Note that the recommendation is actually for contributorship as a concept rather than authorship in its traditional context. So from this perspective authorship and contributorship are not synonyms. May 13, 2014 at 18:37
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    @PeterJansson I don't follow.
    – Fomite
    May 13, 2014 at 18:45

A big publisher has a brief (and somewhat vague) rule for all its journals, although to the best of my knowledge it doesn't do anything to enforce it. Note the 'or' as opposed to the 'and' given in another answer.

Authorship of the paper

Authorship should be limited to those who have made a significant contribution to the conception, design, execution, or interpretation of the reported study. All those who have made significant contributions should be listed as co-authors. Where there are others who have participated in certain substantive aspects of the research project, they should be acknowledged or listed as contributors.

Source here.

which is very similar to the guidelines of the American Physical Society:

Authorship should be limited to those who have made a significant contribution to the concept, design, execution or interpretation of the research study. All those who have made significant contributions should be offered the opportunity to be listed as authors. Other individuals who have contributed to the study should be acknowledged, but not identified as authors.

Source here

  • By "editor" do you mean "publisher"? May 14, 2014 at 6:52

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