Scientific authorship. Part 2. History, recurring issues, practices, and guidelines

Mutat Res. 2005 Jan;589(1):31-45. doi: 10.1016/j.mrrev.2004.07.002.


One challenge for most scientists is avoiding and resolving issues that center around authorship and the publishing of scientific manuscripts. While trying to place the research in proper context, impart new knowledge, follow proper guidelines, and publish in the most appropriate journal, the scientist often must deal with multi-collaborator issues like authorship allocation, trust and dependence, and resolution of publication conflicts. Most guidelines regarding publications, commentaries, and editorials have evolved from the ranks of editors in an effort to diminish the issues that faced them as editors. For example, the Ingelfinger rule attempts to prevent duplicate publications of the same study. This paper provides a historical overview of commonly encountered scientific authorship issues, a comparison of opinions on these issues, and the influence of various organizations and guidelines in regards to these issues. For example, a number of organizations provide guidelines for author allocation; however, a comparison shows that these guidelines differ on who should be an author, rules for ordering authors, and the level of responsibility for coauthors. Needs that emerge from this review are (a) a need for more controlled studies on authorship issues, (b) an increased awareness and a buy-in to consensus views by non-editor groups, e.g., managers, authors, reviewers, and scientific societies, and (c) a need for editors to express a greater understanding of authors' dilemmas and to exhibit greater flexibility. Also needed are occasions (e.g., an international congress) when editors and others (managers, authors, etc.) can directly exchange views, develop consensus approaches and solutions, and seek agreement on how to resolve authorship issues. Open dialogue is healthy, and it is essential for scientific integrity to be protected so that younger scientists can confidently follow the lead of their predecessors.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Authorship*
  • Biomedical Research
  • Duplicate Publications as Topic
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Peer Review, Research / standards*
  • Periodicals as Topic / history
  • Periodicals as Topic / standards*
  • Publishing
  • Scientific Misconduct / ethics*