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This role-play deals with issues concerning authorship credit. Concerns about authorship raise the ethical principle of fairness because people should receive credit for their contributions. Authors of a scientific work must have made substantial or significant contributions to the project because they are taking public responsibility for its content. Authors must also be willing and able to respond to questions about the work. The hard part of authorship is deciding what kind of intellectual contribution counts as substantial or significant and therefore warrants authorship. Despite the availability of guidelines, there are differences of opinions within and between scientific disciplines. Broad guidelines state that an author should participate meaningfully in the design, data collection, or interpretation of the research, and be involved in drafting or revising the article, and give final approval to the published version.

This role-play was not focused on making a judgment about authorship on this paper. It focused on the process for determining authorship on a paper. The selection of authors for a paper or the method and metrics that will be used to assess authorship after the work is completed should be jointly agreed by all of the collaborators as soon as the group has decided on the assignment of responsibilities and workload for the group members. This discussion of the division of labor leads to decisions of who will be the primary or lead author. All changes in responsibilities over time should include discussion of changes in authorship if warranted. These discussions can help preempt later conflict over authorship. These discussions are especially important in work within an adviser-advisee or mentorship relationship. Part of the adviser’s role is to help the student with the publication process. This help may warrant authorship depending on the contribution and the standards within the field. Having these discussions early helps avoid possible misunderstandings and promote fairness.


Authorship and Publication

Material Type

Teaching Module

Research Area

Engineering | Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences | Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Acknowledgement and Disclaimer

Supported by the National Science Foundation under grant EEC-0628814. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Illinois or the National Science Foundation.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Authors who create derivative works should send the authors a courtesy copy of the derivative work. The derivative work should NOT imply that we agree with the authors' views.

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