I would like to be able to recognize contributions in cases where the contributions of individual may not warrant co-authorship, but where the work would not have been possible without the diverse contributions of a community (e.g. developers of an open-source software).

I am particularly interested in the case of non-peer-reviewed white-papers, conference abstracts, software, and documentation, but also where it is appropriate in the peer-reviewed literature.

In the cases of writing an article, such documents could be placed in an appendix or archive. But citing "First author et al 2015" instead of "Acme Team, 2015" seems to promote the team while demoting the implied importance of the document (i.e. within the document it can look like padding if the references are to my self).

What is the appropriate context and method for using a team rather than individual name as the author? Is it possible to obtain a unique identifier, such as Orcid or ResearcherID that identifies a team of contributors rather than individuals?

Some prominent examples of this style of attribution include:

R Programming language:

R Development Core Team (2008). R: A language and environment fo statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. ISBN 3-900051-07-0, URL http://www.R-project.org.


IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Part A: Global and Sectoral Aspects. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1132 pp.

And some conferences, e.g. the American Geophysical Union, allows team citation:

A research team may be referenced during the submission process in the Title of Team field, in lieu of adding the names of individual team members.


Scientific teams are permitted within an authorship list. Such teams and their members should be formally defined entities such as instrument, field or laboratory experiment, or mission teams. Examples: include "Scientific Team of ODP Drilling Leg XXX" , "The Cassini Imaging Science Subsystem Team".

  • 2
    It sounds as if you should include this information in the Acknowledgement section. Sep 25, 2015 at 19:00
  • Naming a team is significantly unhelpful, because it leaves no clear indication of who to contact. The author list, and especially the first author slot, are not for sharing credit broadly. Moreover, team membership changes over time, so even if every person currently a member of the team made an authorship-level contribution, that will soon change, making it an inaccurate way to share credit. You need a single person to name as corresponding author, and an author list that doesn't change.
    – Ben Voigt
    Sep 26, 2015 at 0:50
  • Regarding the new edit: The R foundation is a "company", it is an entity by itself. The IPCC example still have the names... Sep 26, 2015 at 14:15
  • @Fabio what qualifies as an entity? Note that the IPCC reference lists names of report editors, not authors. Sep 27, 2015 at 3:34
  • In the case of R, it is a foundation, with headquarters. You can send them mail and someone will answer it. Of course, you can extend that definition to a lab, but then you wouldn't have necessarily someone responsible for the work. The main point is to have a reachable corresponding author, including 10 years from now... Sep 27, 2015 at 3:44

2 Answers 2


It's not immediately evident in your question but I gather that you are asking about how to cite other people's work. Or possibly previous work to which you partly contributed.

Referencing previous work serves the purpose of giving robust information to your reader to locate said work, not to attribute credit.

In that very aspect of your academic work, don't be creative. What's relevant is the citation style imposed by the journal or conference you are publishing in, or your institution's guidelines for theses, or at the very least, the standard citation style that you chose for that particular document you are writing.

See similar questions having the same answer:

How to cite papers where the names are sorted?

Style in citing two authors in the same sentence


Credit were credit is due. If they contributed enough to be co-authors, add them as co-authors, if not, thank them in the acknowledgements. That's it.

AFAIK, the preference for a team instead of first author is yours only :) ... et al means more people, and the reader will know there are more people involved. I never saw that in CS, might be doable in other domains, but I do find it weird and I think you risk "breaking" the citation systems (like google scholar automatic counting, etc).

I reckon it is mildly disconcerting to see the a name repeated over and over again, because it makes me think "are they the only people working on this? Is this field relevant?". That wouldn't change if you replace the names by teams...

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