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BITC: Publication Class -- 10. Authorship

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The last consideration when we talk about the submission process is who should be an author. This is a part of the process that can be pretty sensitive. What is authorship? What is this thing that allows us to put our name on a paper and feel like we've made a contribution? This is something that varies quite dramatically from-field to-field or sub-field to sub-field. So, I can't give you a definitive answer. My personal opinion is that every author of a paper should have made a concrete intellectual contribution to making that paper happen. Let's talk a little bit about some of the considerations about authorship. Here's an example of a two author paper: Robert Colwell and Douglass Fututma. My understanding is that both of these men came to the table with some very interesting and concrete ideas. They sat down and they both contributed to what is a massively cited paper. This is a simple situation. We go on to a paper that might have 15 authors. And, here we get into cultural differences. In the biodiversity world, this first author is the research leader. In the biomedical realm, this final author might be the research leader. So, we get into these cultural differences. And, when we're talking 15 authors, it may not be that every one of those 15 came to the table and provided critical intellectual content. Instead, it may be that the one of these authors did one step in the process. So, there are some value judgements involved. Here's an example from my own research group. It's something that I'm very proud of because this is 10 authors, but this is a full collaboration. We literally sat down and developed this set of analyses as a group. When we finish these papers, we assign a random number generator to each of the names and sort them randomly; and, we state that as such. In this case, —first author, last author, research leader— we're all mixed up together, but we're explicit about it. These are difficult questions. And, these are questions that require a lot of thinking. To give you some broad generalities: Reasons for authorship. Maybe you wrote the paper. That's a pretty good reason to be an author. Maybe you provided critical intellectual input. Maybe you didn't write the paper, but you said, 'hey, think about this, this, this, as the cause of that, that, that'. Or, 'think about testing this hypothesis.' That may be a really critical input. Maybe anybody could write the paper. The question is, who could conceive it? Another reason is that the person worked very hard in gathering or analyzing or processing the data. That's a very valid reason to be an author. There some other reasons. Maybe you're the research leader and that lab is yours. Should your name be on each and every paper? Or, maybe the author of the paper is your student. Should the advisor be a part of every paper the student writes? My personal opinions, and the opinions in your field or your institution or your country, may be quite different. To me, these three are obvious; and, these two are complicated. But think about it. Authors should be people who made significant contributions to the overall effort of making that paper happen.

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Duration: 4 minutes and 26 seconds
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Language: English
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Posted by: townpeterson on Jul 5, 2016

Publication Class: How to Publish a Scientific Paper

A. Townsend Peterson, University of Kansas
In English

Academic productivity and effective communication of research results depend critically on publishing scientific articles in scholarly journals. This set of 13 video segments aims to provide an overview of the entire publishing process. It is not specific to biodiversity informatics, but rather can be quite general for the natural sciences at least.

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