A junior researcher with no reputation (as we've dropped the facade of double-blind review, reputation counts) may benefit from coauthoring with a senior researcher of established reputation, and may accept such a co-authorship with no more than a nominal contribution.

Surely if a senior researcher comes up with the idea, sends the junior researcher off to get his data, provides fruitful advice on where to look, critiques the data gathering methods proposed and refines it if necessary, reviews early to late drafts of the write up, indisputably that senior researcher deserves recognition of coauthorship despite never having directly given voice to the document.

How much advice does a professor have to give before he becomes an coauthor? Isn't the below image's last author listing wrong? Isn't it academic dishonesty on the parts of all of the authors to take and give credit where it is not due? Isn't it misleading to the readers of these papers?

PhD Comics, Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Further, are these semantically unordered? Maybe this indicates we can drop that facade as well, since order apparently does have meaning (unless explicitly ordered alphabetically).

If we really care about people rightfully getting credit, perhaps a paper should list credits in the same way that a movie does.

Perhaps something like:

The Prestigious Journal of Import                    Vol XLVI No 2, June 1992

                            A Paper We Wrote 

                      Primary Author: Sap, P. S. 
                     Primary Advisor: Oliveira, L.
                           Reviewers: Lee, E. F., Nichols, S. T.,
                             Figures: Michael, C. 
                          Dept Chair: Smith, B. S.

    The time has come, to talk of many things, of shoes, of ships, of sealing


Do we need to revamp how authorships are credited, do papers need to roll credits, a'la Hollywood? Or is all of this inferred by our list order, and it doesn't really matter who did what, all authors signed off on it, so current practice is equivalent to as if each of them contributed equally and in kind?

  • Credit for what? I never seen anyone really pay attention to the order of authors beyond the first author.
    – StrongBad
    Jun 23, 2014 at 5:36
  • The idea sounds great, and some journals already seem to do something comparable (not directly in the author list, but as part of the appendix). My main concern is whether this will increase or decrease fairness and transparency. Generally, you seem to assume that the information given here will actually reflect reality, i.e., a prominent co-author that only served as figurehead will truthfully be listed as such. I think this is an optimistic view.
    – xLeitix
    Jun 23, 2014 at 6:57
  • 2
    as it stands, this question is soliciting opinion. However, it could easily be modified along the lines of the existing answer - to ask what moves have been made in this direction.
    – Flyto
    Jun 23, 2014 at 22:39
  • 1
    Isn't there already a wealth of questions about authorship criteria on this site? Also, this question is opinion-based. 'Do we need to revamp how authorships are credited' Who's 'we'?
    – Cape Code
    Jul 10, 2014 at 17:02

1 Answer 1


There is movement towards contributorship as a concept to replace authorship. Journals like Science and Nature (and others) ask authors to provide a list of each contributors contribution. Add to that a definition of what constitutes contributorship (Vancouver Protocol; see ICMJE for the following example):

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work;


  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content;


  • Final approval of the version to be published;


  • 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 this case it is the publishers and editors who will have to implement the tools to provide the correct credit. As an author it is possible to volunteer the information in the acknowledgement. It is of course still possible to give false credit by faking entries for authors who have not contributed but I doubt any system will be perfect.


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