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Establishing Authorship

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Generally, and as per the guidelines of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, only individuals who make substantive intellectual contributions to the project should be listed as authors and the order of authorship should be based on the degree of importance of each author’s contribution to the project. The latter may be difficult to establish in disciplines such as genomics where teams of several dozen, hundreds, or perhaps several thousand contributors (i.e., particle physics), may be authors in a single paper (see Castelvecchi, 2015). Authorship usually entails the ability to publicly take responsibility for the contents of the project (e.g., being sufficiently knowledgeable about the project to be able to present it in a formal forum). What determines whether a contribution is substantive or not is a matter of debate and, technically, it should not matter whether the aim of the collaboration is an internal technical report, a conference presentation, or an article targeted for refereed journal. Generally, examples of substantive contributions include, but are not limited to, aiding in the conceptualization of the hypotheses, designing the methodology of the investigation and significantly contributing to the writing the manuscript. “Menial” activities, such as entering information in a database or merely collecting actual data (e.g., running subjects, collecting specimens, distributing and collecting questionnaires) are not, by themselves, sufficient grounds for authorship, but should be acknowledged in a footnote. In addition, “honorary” or “courtesy” authorship assigned on the basis of some leadership position (e.g., such as being head of the department where the research is carried out) must also be avoided.

GUIDELINE 25: Only those individuals who have made substantive contributions to a project merit authorship in a paper.