Get expert advice to help you get published!

You are here

Who qualifies to be an author?

I am going to submit my first paper for which I am the main contributor. During the course of this study, a senior post-doc in our lab helped me troubleshoot and suggested some key experiments. He even helped me analyze some data. I would like to include his name as a co-author on this paper. Also, my research advisor wants me to include the name of one of our collaborators who provided some cell lines that we used in this study, but I’m not sure about this. I would like to know whether there are any standard guidelines for deciding who should be considered an author.

Authorship is a much-disputed issue that even senior researchers are not entirely clear about. 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, an author should have:

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

Most biomedical journals now require authors to conform to ICMJE authorship guidelines and even ask for a detailed description of each author’s contribution.

In your case, the senior post-doc should be credited as a co-author because he has made significant intellectual contribution to your study by suggesting experiments and helping you analyze the data. However, contributors who only provide technical help, lab space, reagents, or writing assistance do not fulfill the authorship criteria and should not be included as authors. Thus, the contribution of your collaborator is not sufficient for him/her to be credited as an author; instead he/she should be duly thanked in the acknowledgements section of the manuscript. I would advise you to inform your advisor about the ICMJE guidelines. You could explain that your paper acceptance may be delayed if the journal editor is not convinced that all listed authors have contributed sufficiently.

Do you have any more queries regarding authorship? Write them in the comments below.

Join the discussion!