Q: Does someone who has assisted in experiments qualify to be a coauthor?

Detailed Question -

I would like to publish an article. My field of work is protein engineering. I performed some part of my work in another lab. People in the lab technically helped me to do the experiments. but the main idea and proposal was mine. The problem that now I have is that I am not sure to put their name as coauthors since the most important experiment has not yet been performed by them after one year that I requested. They do not have that much contribution on my work. I wrote the article with those result that I obtained in their lab and some that I got from my work in our lab and it was revised by another coauthor. But my supervisor insists on writing their names as coauthors. Should I write their name as coauthors?

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1 Answer to this question

Authorship is a much-disputed issue and even senior researchers are not always clear about it. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has provided a set of guidelines meant to help researchers decide whether a contributor qualifies to be an author or should be just be included in the acknowledgements section of a manuscript. According to these guidelines, authorship can be granted if all four of the following conditions have been met:

  • the person has substantially contributed to conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data
  • the person has drafted the article or revised it critically for important intellectual content,
  • has provided final approval of the version to be published.
  • has agreed to be accountable for the work.

The guidelines also state that:

"Contributors who meet fewer than all 4 of the above criteria for authorship should not be listed as authors, but they should be acknowledged....Those whose contributions do not justify authorship may be acknowledged individually or together as a group under a single heading (e.g. "Clinical Investigators" or "Participating Investigators"), and their contributions should be specified (e.g., "served as scientific advisors," "critically reviewed the study proposal," "collected data," "provided and cared for study patients", "participated in writing or technical editing of the manuscript")."

Thus, in your case, if the people in the lab have only helped you conduct the experiments but not made any intellectual contribution to the study, they cannot be granted authorship. I think you should discuss this clearly with your supervisor and offer to acknowledge their contribution in the acknowledgements section of your paper.

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