Authorship is the most visible form of academic recognition and credit, next to which it hosts various social and financial implications. Authorship however, goes beyond personal gratification alone. Authorship also implies responsibility and accountability for published work. In essence, attribution of credit and responsibility is central to the structure of science. When determining authorship credit it is essential to ensure that those who have made significant intellectual contributions are given credit. Secondly, the contributors credited as authors should understand that being credited also means taking responsible and being accountable for what is published.

The framework of science depends in part on the ability of institutions, policy makers, and the public to identify who is responsible for the work and its interpretation. Funding agencies consider past success, as evidenced by authorship, in the allocation of research grants. Research institutions often use authorship as evidence of creative contributions that warrant promotion. Scientists themselves may use credit for past work as a mechanism to attract both new trainees and willing collaborators. Finally, in an era of increasing emphasis on commercialization, authorship and credit help to define intellectual property rights. These and other reasons explain scientists’ desire for the credit of authorship, and also make clear why the assignment of authorship is central to the responsible conduct of research.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends authorship be based upon the following four criteria:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

In addition to being accountable for the parts of the work he or she has done, authors should have confidence in the integrity of the contribution of their co-authors.

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