Negotiating Research Authorship

In the latest blog post on "The Intrepid Researcher," CMU-Q Librarian A.M. Salaz dives into the complicated topic of what contributions to a research project deserve authorship credit and how contributions can be weighed.

"I recently fielded a reference inquiry from an early-career researcher who was preparing to publish a manuscript based on work she had done over the preceding semester. The research direction, however, had kicked off years before, while the researcher was still a graduate student working under an advisor in a different institution, a person she had not seen or heard from since graduation. “The whole original idea came from my advisor,” the researcher began. “Don’t I have an obligation to list them as an author on this new paper?”

Researchers don’t always agree about what contributions to a research project deserve authorship credit, nor on how contributions can be weighed. A recent survey of over 6,000 researchers showed widely diverging opinions on which research-related tasks should merit authorship credit on resulting papers, even among researchers in the same fields and regions and with the same level of experience. These divergent views may, in many cases, be the result of researchers taking on the perceived norms of their own advisors and predecessors. The subsequent disagreement becomes apparent in practice in ways that many academics will recognize: Junior researchers feel obligated to list or prioritize authors who they do not believe contributed as much to a project. Senior researchers feel obligated to lend their name and prestige to projects they have barely touched. Researchers of all career levels feel excluded from projects where they believe they contributed significantly but never receive recognition."

Read more on The Intrepid Researcher.

News category: Data & Publishing, Research support