It seems like journal publishers do not require credentials for proof of your affiliation and identity. There are many places where such credentials are important, but even the most popular journal publishers do not ask for them. Why is that so?

  • 4
    I don't know for sure, but it seems to me that it would be difficult to check credentials. If I had to prove that I'm affiliated with the University of Michigan, I could send a scan of my university ID card, but can publishers tell a genuine ID card from a fake, considering that different universities have different-looking cards? I could send a link to my department's web page, but they could find that anyway by googling my name. Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 9:12
  • 21
    Why do they need proof of credentials? Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 9:18
  • 36
    I guess it's for the same reason that online shops don't ask for proof of your home address when you order something.
    – silvado
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 9:19
  • 4
    Why would anyone fake the aff.? For serious authors, it's a very bad idea since if this is ever discovered (and someone eventually will) your career is toast. For frauds, I guess you could be trying to make the paper sound more credible since it's coming from a famous school... But affiliation doesn't really help a paper all that much. Ask people at famous schools who have trouble getting published.
    – Superbest
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 18:01
  • 4
    You put your affiliation so your institute is happy. The journal doesn't care what is your affiliation.
    – Greg
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 11:21

6 Answers 6


There are several answers here.

  1. They quite probably already do so (eg if a claimed affiliation to a prestigious institution looks too good to be true, or unlikely given other information, or a reviewer says "hey, wait..."), but on an informal and ad-hoc basis, rather than doing it for the 99% of unremarkable cases.

  2. They usually don't need to. Most submitters will provide an institutional email address, which is itself a fairly good indication that you are affiliated with that institution. (In the old days, you might have used letterhead - same sort of thing)

  3. Beyond this, defining "credentials" would be complex. Would you need them to point to an institutional webpage with their name on? Submit a payslip? Produce a certificate of employment? (And what would you define as "counting" for affiliation?)

  4. Finally (and most importantly) most of the publishing system is based on trust. The publisher trusts you to have actually carried out the experiments, and to have reported them honestly and comprehensively. They trust you not to have plagarised, or committed ethical breaches, or misrepresented other researchers. They may ask you to sign something to certify you've done all these things correctly, but they won't ask for evidence that someone else has verified you did them. If they're willing to take your word on the actual content of your science, why be particularly distrustful of your affiliation?

  • 1
    +1 for the first three points. But the account on trust should take a second look. Refer [this][washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/03/27/… This shows how serious identity information should be accounted for in publications.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 11:38
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    @ÉbeIsaac The people in question were offering peer review using fake names, not publish articles. Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 12:25
  • Read carefully; author names were also found to be fake to claim another nationality.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 12:51
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    @ÉbeIsaac it's certainly true that some people do like and abuse the system, but that serves to demonstrate how trust-dependent the system currently is. It would need a very dramatic change in attitude (and a much more bureaucratic process) before checking affiliation would become widespread. Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 14:07
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    @ÉbeIsaac, where exactly in the linked article are fake author names, instead of fake reviewer names, mentioned?
    – silvado
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 18:03

The crucial point is: Why would the author lie? Let's try some hypothetical answers:

  1. To bluff the editors and reviewers so that they think you're at a top place. But reviewers will likely be from your field of study and realize that you lie. They would probably know it if you moved to a high-ranking institution.

  2. To make the paper look good in your CV. This is a non-sense, you sell your affiliation in different ways than by listing them in your papers.

I can't think of any other reason. Given that the authors have no incentive to list a false affiliation, there is no reason to verify it.

Also, remember that some affiliations are very hard to verify, for instance if you stay somewhere for 6 months and want to list it as an affiliation, you possibly do not appear in any official lists.

  • no incentive to list a false affiliation: I suppose [this] (academia.stackexchange.com/questions/54683/…) may be an example of why should someone give false affiliation. This can be used to claim that the personnel has worked/studied in such a institution.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 10:02
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    @ÉbeIsaac If a hiring manager relies on affiliations on journal articles to verify that someone has a degree from there, he's a bad hiring manager. What if I published 3 papers but never got the degree? Also, this would require a much bigger fraud (trying to sneak in alumni on linkedin and get many friends from there, etc.).
    – yo'
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 10:27
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    I'd like to know what the downvote is for. I'm fine with getting downvoted, but if I don't know what's wrong, it's hardly a helpful feedback. If the downvoter spared a comment with their reason, it would be appreciated. Thanks!
    – yo'
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 12:59
  • Perhaps an author might bluff their institution to conceal conflicts of interest with suggested reviewers?
    – user38309
    Commented Oct 12, 2015 at 8:05

A journal is interested in whether the submitted article is,

  • Appropriate in subject matter for that journal
  • Of a suitable standard for that journal (as advised by reviewers)

In an ideal world, neither of these things is indicated by affiliation - so why should they care?

  • 1
    Unfortunately, this is not entirely true. I can't give you a reference, but there are observations that your both your affiliation and your name can significantly influence the odds your paper gets accepted, especially in some top journals.
    – yo'
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 12:58
  • @yo' I'm sure that's true. Thanks for pointing it out - I've added a qualifier to my final line!
    – Flyto
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 14:44
  • @SimonW Yes, it's correlated but it's undesirable, so there is an incentive to push back from this. The journal's editors do not want referees who judge papers written by famous professors to just skim over the papers and not evaluate these as critically as a papers written by other people. Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 16:51
  • @CountIblis That's also not true. An idea by a famous person gets more attention than the same idea by someone unknown. The same probably holds for institutions. So if journal cares for high stats like the IF, they prefer articles from well known institutions because these are in general more cited.
    – yo'
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 17:18

There are some examples of papers published under false names or pseudonyms. For example, Student's t-distribution. A possible scenario is a scientist working in a private institution which doesn't allow him to legally disclose his research. Just like books can be published under pen names, scientific articles can be written using pseudonyms (see If I publish under a pseudonym, can I still take credit for my work?). If that's allowed, it makes no sense to check credentials, including affiliation.

  • It is true (+1). It is written that Countess Ada Lovelace herself published her research under a pseudonym. But is that necessary now? If one uses another famous author's name as his own, how would the publisher find out? The motive may even to taint the reputation of such an author. As far-fetched as it may seem, isn't this possible?
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 2:55
  • 1
    But did "Student" actually claim an affiliation that he didn't have? Besides, it was perfectly obvious that it was a pseudonym, since he didn't have a first name and a last name or anything like that, just "Student". Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 3:29
  • @MichaelHardy My point is that if false identities are allowed, double checking affiliations doesn't make much sense. Maybe a point can be made that either you use your real name, or you use something that is obviously a pseudonym, to forbid someone impersonating another real author.
    – a06e
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 11:57
  • It's worth noting that most of the linked question talks about 'pseudonyms' which are simply adopted for distinctiveness - using an unusual middle name for publication purposes, say - rather than pseudonyms used to conceal or mislead someone about your real identity. I doubt many journals these days would be happy with explicitly concealed author identities except in very unusual circumstances; 'Student' published in a very different world... Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 12:55
  • 1
    In the case of 'Student', etc, I believe the convention of the time was that the publisher did know who the author was, but permitted it to be published under a pseudonym - so they would certainly be in a position to check its authenticity in these cases/ Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 13:16

For the most part, your name and affiliation are not relevant to the content of a paper, which is what a journal is interested in. In the vast majority of cases an author would not have any incentive to lie about such things, so a journal would probably be willing to either take you at your word or only perform some basic checks, unless there were circumstances which aroused suspicion. The only incentive I can think of for an author to disguise their name or affiliation is if they wished to hide a conflict of interest or bad reputation, which I have seen happen. I expect it's pretty rare though.


Because academia used to be about science, scholarship, and the advancement of learning and predominantly practiced by folk who would not dream of fibbing about such matters. Because editors have busy lives and they are not the police and journals are not official organs of the state. Because universities would only care if something controversial or harmful etc was unauthorisedly stated under their aegis - but they do not mind getting the credit for solid work. Because if some third party does object (hey! someone has read my paper, or at least the author list!), the affiliation is easily checked with the uni (a quick call, a visit to a web site) and the matter resolved. Because there are various entirely valid reasons for a person to be affiliated with the uni for the purposes of the paper, even when they are not (no longer, not yet) at that uni right now.

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