How Much Credit: Deciding the Authorship Order - ACS Axial
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How Much Credit: Deciding the Authorship Order

It may sound like a straight forward matter, but deciding the order of authorship for a paper is often a difficult task. Experienced chemists say the decision is easiest when the head of a lab discusses the matter early and often, embraces transparency, makes authorship contribution-based, and acknowledges what contributions were made.

Professor Joan F. Brennecke of the University of Texas at Austin,  Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Chemical & Engineering Data, says the easiest solution is to decide early and to communicate it clearly to everyone. Since authoring has been done for so long, ask how it’s been done in the past. This way you can set the expectations in your group for how it will be decided. Brennecke mentions that most students have access to classes that discuss authorship and its basis.

A good way to head off conflict is to make authors aware of their level of authorship when they join the team, advises Professor Olaf G. Weist, of the University of Notre Dame.

Professor George Schatz of Northwestern University, Editor-in-Chief of The Journal of Physical Chemistry A,B,C, and Letters, argues that the biggest contributor should come first.

“If you use authorship as a currency, rather than a merit based thing, that doesn’t work very well,” says Professor Phil Baran of The Scripps Research Institute, Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). It should be based on science, and that way it will always be just, he argues.

Professor Bradley D. Smith of the University of Notre Dame says to add an author information section which shows what each author contributed.


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