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If someone gets his name second on a paper despite the two contributing the same amount of work and this fact is indicated so, are both authors co-first authors?

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There is only one first author. But the 'prestige' associated with the first author, in certain fields, could be extended to a second author.

An example:

The two authors contributed equally to this work

(source: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1404.7748.pdf)

When cited, this work would be "Najman and Cousty" ("Najman"/"Najman et al" in some contexts, if more than 2 authors), but it is clearly stated that both authors contributed equally, so they both share the 'main author' credit.

(this is the only example I know of this approach, they were my phd advisors - yes, both of them)

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    It's ... not common but not incredibly rare. I'd say in the earth sciences I see it, at a rough guess, on a couple of percent of papers. Occasionally three "these authors contributed equally", not just two; I think usually the equal-contributors are alphabetically ordered but it's not universal. – Andrew Jul 21 '16 at 19:52
  • The problem with alphabetic order (alone) is that, in fields where the order matters, it becomes unclear.... – Fábio Dias Jul 21 '16 at 21:10

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