What level of involvement earns an individual authorship on a paper? Does the order in which authors’ names appear really matter? Is an author accountable for aspects of the work they were not included in? In a recent article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Marcia McNutt et al provide recommendations for journals, institutions, funders, and societies, which outline how the authorship system can be standardised and authorship transparency increased.
McNutt and team encourage journals to set standards for authorship and to adopt a statement that is largely based on the authorship criteria developed by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. They also recommend that journals outline the responsibilities and expectations of corresponding authors, suggesting that this could discourage ghost and guest authorship. The use of systems such as the Contributor Roles Taxonomy (CRediT) and ORCiD IDs by journals is also advocated, which allow contributions to be captured in metadata while improving transparency and author accountability. The authors suggest that funders could mandate that investigators use both initiatives.
Recommendations for universities and other research institutions include developing and communicating their policies on authorship and ensuring these are regularly reviewed and updated. Finally, the authors encourage scientific societies to endorse efforts that increase transparency and to hold sessions at scientific meetings that focus on authorship integrity.
McNutt et al conclude by providing a link to the Transparency in Author Contributions in Science (TACS) website, which not only aims to measure growing transparency in authorship but also act as a resource for sharing best practices in authorship policies.