I, personally, have never see any authors in IEEE transactions listed as "co-first" authors, as such

John Smith†, Bill Lee†, and Boss James
† These two authors contribute equally to the work.

Is this allowed in IEEE transactions?


Yes, it is allowed. Google scholar is your friend in such cases.

I employed this query, which looks for publications with "IEEE Transactions" in them, the text "contributed equally to", and one in (text | paper | work | article).

The results show several papers published in IEEE Transactions, which specify multiple equal co-authorship. The way this is specified seems to be non standardized.

For example, http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/TNB.2006.875054 specifies that "The first two authors contributed equally to this work." in the space reserved for details such as when the manuscript was received and revised.

In http://dx.doi.org/10.1109/TED.2009.2034804, the equal contribution is specified in the ACKNOWLEDGEMENT section of the paper.

Both ways look good to me. The first case is likely achieved by communicating the authors' contribution in the cover letter / space for staff communication. The second case is achieved by simply writing the contribution in the text body.

  • Both cases kinda diminish the second-place co-first author. I feel a proper way to draw enough attention to this co-first authorship should be a special symbol right after the two first authors' names, like a footnote. The first case, although having said so, does not have a symbol to draw attention. – Sibbs Gambling Jun 21 '14 at 13:43
  • 1
    Please note that adding the symbol is journal dependent. Some journals (PeerJ and PLOS ONE come into my mind right now) have a field called Author Contributions at the end of each paper. No symbols involved there either. However, in my opinion, the symbol thing is a "simple" technical issue, that can be solved only by the journal editorial staff. How about contacting those working for the journal you are interested in? – user7112 Jun 21 '14 at 13:48

Some people use alphabetic sorting of authors.

Assuming that the first author contributed "most" is a very fragile and questionable approach.

This is not even consistent within a field.
It's largely the personal preference of the supervisor, usually.

  • 2
    This is very much field dependent. – Davidmh Jun 21 '14 at 13:09
  • Not even that. Even within a field, and within a single journal, you will find this. Author ordering often is a personal preference of the authors. So don't rely on it. – Has QUIT--Anony-Mousse Jun 22 '14 at 0:11

I have never seen co-first authors either ... you can use alphabetic ordering to indicate more-or-less equal contributions, or you can use partial alphabetic ordering (the first group is alphabetically ordered and the last group is not), or non-alphabetic to indicate that the first author contributed the most.

Ultimately, the system only works when co-authors are honest to the public about their contribution. If you're worried that co-authors will cheat you out of credit, you probably should not be working with them.

  • No, I am not worried about that. We are working together perfectly and agree that we should be co-first authors. We cannot follow the alphabetical order, either, because the correspondence author is the PI. – Sibbs Gambling Jun 21 '14 at 2:14
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    (-1) this does not answer the question, and is IMHO rather a comment. – cbeleites supports Monica Jun 21 '14 at 9:10
  • @FarticlePilter Correspondence author is usually specifically indicated, and usually is the person with the most stable position, be or not the main contributor to the paper. – Davidmh Jun 21 '14 at 13:11

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