Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Authorship in Scientific and Scholarly Work Products

What roles and responsibilities do authors have when producing a scientific or scholarly work?
Authors are expected to follow the DOI Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct, and fulfill the following roles:
-  make substantial intellectual contributions to the conception, experimental design, or planning of the work; and/or
-  are substantively involved in acquiring, analyzing, or interpreting data; and
-  write or improve the work by contributing pivotal scholarly content; and
-  take responsibility for the integrity of the work and approve the final work for publication. 
I am working on a large project with colleagues from different disciplines; how do I know who is an “author” when our contributions to the manuscript are so varied?
Large, multi-disciplinary collaborations should have clearly defined authorship agreements that are established before the project begins and follow bureau authorship requirements. Discussion and attribution of individual contributions is essential in large projects. At a minimum, all authors must be able to identify their contribution, agree to the publication of a manuscript, and, take public responsibility for the full content of the work.
I provide administrative funds to support this scientific or scholarly work—why am I not listed as an author?
There are important contributions that do not merit authorship but may merit acknowledgment and/or citation, such as:

-  securing funding for the scientific or scholarly work;
-  providing supervisory or administrative support for the scientific or scholarly work;
-  editing and proofreading of the scientific or scholarly work;
-  making available data collected from previously reported or published work or providing materials or specimens.
As a Principal Investigator on a group project, when should I discuss authorship of any scientific works we are planning to publish?
It is very important to discuss responsibilities and authorship among participating individuals before a project commences and periodically as work progresses. Most authorship disputes can be avoided or resolved by engaging in open conversation early in the process to ensure all contributors agree. A simple authorship agreement may be drafted to keep members of a group project accountable. The authorship agreement should be updated as necessary to reflect any changes in roles, participation, and to reflect any new or departing members.​​ 
I am a researcher and was directed to perform a lot of basic work on a project. My supervisor drafted a manuscript but did not include me as an author. Don’t I merit being designated as an author?
While it may feel daunting to approach your supervisor, discussing expectations and responsibilities before a project begins is important and will help identify and establish opportunities for you to contribute as an author. Negotiating authorship should involve purposeful discussion of your contributions and take place often throughout the course of the work. This can help minimize disputes later. The level of contribution expected for authorship can also be discussed and documented in a simple authorship agreement. While simply executing work on a project may not constitute a substantial intellectual contribution to the manuscript (refer to FAQ 1), you may qualify to be included in an acknowledgment section.
A senior scientist in my laboratory insists on being included as an author on every manuscript that comes out of the laboratory, even those he/she is not substantially involved in. I am happy to acknowledge support, but does he/she qualify as an author?
Authorship should not be provided to a senior individual who expects or demands it just because he/she is in a position of authority; anyone listed as an author should provide a substantial intellectual contribution to the scientific work (refer to FAQ 1). Providing authorship in this way is known as “honorary” authorship and is a common abuse. Someone who exclusively obtained equipment, funds, or provided top-level supervision may qualify for acknowledgment but not authorship.
Some technicians on my project provide substantial intellectual contributions to the work, but others simply operate equipment and produce basic data. Do I need to list all of them as authors on my publication?
Performing routine tasks likely does not merit authorship (refer to FAQ 1); however, authorship is a powerful developmental opportunity and incentive.  Engage technicians early in the process and facilitate their ability to provide the intellectual contributions required to qualify for authorship. Doing so can benefit your entire team and prevent misunderstandings later.
I use the same method in my different projects; it is impossible to describe the technique without using the same phrases. Is it considered self-plagiarism to use the same language over again?
When there is a limited way to describe your work, you should cite the original published work when using the same (or even very similar) text to avoid any appearance of plagiarism.  Self-plagiarism is the reuse of substantial portions of one’s own published work without citing the original work.
I would like to submit my recently published work (with slight variations) to other venues for distribution as a new work product. Is that acceptable?
You must disclose the earlier publication and attribute your past work because the repeated publication of data or ideas without attribution is another form of self-plagiarism called redundant publication. Engaging in redundant publication might artificially increase your publication record. Further, you could impede scientific progress by displacing new and important scientific findings. Redundant publication can also distort the scientific record by creating the illusion there is more support or evidence for a conclusion than what exists.
I am a junior researcher, and I know that adding a well-known scientist as a co-author on my manuscript will increase the likelihood that a prestigious journal will accept it for publication. Is it acceptable to add his/her name as a co-author without explicitly involving them in the work?
Authorship should not be attributed to an individual who does not make a substantial intellectual contribution to the work (refer to FAQ 1); what you describe is called “ghost” authorship and is a common authorship abuse. Adding the name of a well-known scientist to make a scientific work more impressive undermines the research, and potentially damages both your reputation and that of the scientist whose prestige you covet.
In collaboration with a partner in the private sector, we are preparing a scientific work for publication. Our partners have been extensively involved in the project and meet the conditions for authorship. However, they now would like for our work to appear in the literature as a product of the bureau only. They have requested not to be listed as an author. Can I honor the request?
This could be another form of “ghost” authorship. It is very important to establish expectations with partners before a project commences and periodically as work progresses. Substantial contributions to a scientific work need to be credited to those who provide them. Identifying all authors plays a critical role in transparency and indicates who is responsible for the information. Otherwise, a conflict of interest or bias could potentially be obscured.
Why is authorship designation important to scientific integrity?
It is the policy of the DOI to facilitate the free flow of scientific information (305 DM 3.4A(5)).  Authorship of scientific and scholarly work is an important mechanism to achieve that objective.  In following the DOI Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct, the designation of authorship plays a critical role in identifying who performed the work and ensures that both credit and responsibility for the work are attributed to the appropriate individual(s).
Are the FAQs here consistent with other sources? What other resources are there describing scientific integrity in authorship?
The best practices described in the FAQs consider widely accepted approaches from the following:

-  USGS SM 502.10 Fundamental Science Practices: USGS Authorship of Scientific Information Products
-  EPA: Best Practices for Designating Authorship
-  Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)
-  International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)
-  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM): Fostering Integrity in Research
Who do I contact if I have questions about scientific integrity related to authorship, or comments about the concepts presented here?
The concepts are intended as best practices or guidelines. Questions about best practices or disputes involving scientific integrity in authorship may be directed to your Bureau Scientific Integrity Officer, the DOI Scientific Integrity Coordinators, or the DOI Scientific Integrity Officer.

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