Background: Authorship and inventorship are the key attribution rights that contribute to a scientist's reputation and professional achievement. This article discusses the concepts of coinventorship and coauthorship in the legal and sociological literature, as well as journals' publication guidelines and technology transfer offices' recommendations. It discusses also the relative importance of social and legal norms in the allocation of scientific credit.
Method: This article revises critically the literature on inventorship and authorship in academic science and derives some policy implications on the institutional mechanisms allocating scientific credit. It reports and assesses the recent empirical evidence on the importance of social norms for the attribution of inventorship and authorship in teams of scientists. Finally, it discusses those norms from a social welfare perspective.
Result: The social norms that regulate the distribution of authorship and inventorship do not reflect exclusively the relative contribution of each team member but also the members' relative seniority or status. In the case of inventorship, such social norms appear to be as important as the legal norms whose respect is often invoked by technology transfer officers.
Conclusion: Authorship and inventorship appear to be obsolete because they do not capture the increasing division of labor and responsibility typical of contemporary scientific research teams. The informative value of both authorship and inventorship attributions may be much more limited than assumed by recent evaluation exercises.
Keywords: content area; design and evaluation of programs and policies; economic evaluation; education.
© The Author(s) 2014.