University of Kentucky Research

Authorship: Points to Consider

Authorship identifies those individuals who deserve primary credit and hold principal responsibility for a published work. Research and other scholarly publications provide an important medium to disseminate findings, thoughts, and analysis to the scientific, academic and lay communities. Because scholarly activity as evidenced by publication of original work is a major area in which faculty, staff and students are evaluated for appointment, awards, admission to programs, promotion, tenure and research funding, the criteria used to determine authorship are of significant concern.

This guidance is intended to apply to all types of scholarly writing, including articles, abstracts, presentations at professional meetings, grant applications, authorship of theoretical papers, review papers, case histories, book chapters, and books. Individual publications may have specific guidelines that should be consulted. 

Although criteria for authorship vary, authorship qualification should be based on meeting the following criteria:

  1. substantially contributes to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data
  2. drafts the article or revises it critically for important intellectual content
  3. approves final version to be published
  4. agrees to be named as an author

Acquisition of funding, collection of data or general supervision of the research group, in the absence of any of the above, does not justify authorship.

All persons designated as authors should qualify for authorship, and all those who qualify should be listed.

Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for appropriate portions of the content.

The order of authorship on the byline should be a joint decision of the co-authors. Presumably, authors would be able to explain the order in which authors are listed, if asked. 

These guidelines do not address disputes regarding the order of authorship. Only the co-authors can make informed judgments regarding authorship. If authorship disputes arise and fail to be resolved, it is recommended that the chair or head of the department(s) be consulted in an effort to resolve the dispute. If disputes are still unresolved, the relevant dean(s) and possibly faculty groups such as privilege and tenure, the Provost or the Vice President for Research should be consulted. Authorship disputes do not, by themselves, constitute research misconduct and, as such, are not governed by the University of Kentucky's Research Misconduct policy.

The University of Kentucky's requirements are excerpted from:

Authorship Task Force (2000): Is it time to update the tradition of authorship in scientific publications? Council of Science Editors (formerly Council of Biology Editors) http://www.councilscienceeditors.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3376

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) "Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals" http://www.icmje.org/index.html