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BITC Publication Class 10: Authorship

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Now, a last consideration when we talk about the submission process is that of who should be an author. And 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 have made a contribution? This is something that varies quite dramatically from field to field, or subfield to subfield, so I can't give you a definitive answer. My own personal opinion is that every author of a paper should have made a concrete intellectual contribution to making that paper happen. So let's talk a little bit about some of the considerations that we should have in mind about authorship. So here is an example of a two-authored paper, Robert Colwell and Douglas Futuyma. And my understanding is that both of these men came to the table with some interesting and concrete ideas, and they sat down and they both contributed to what is a massively cited paper. So 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, for example, this first author is essentially the research leader. In the biomedical realm, this final author might be the research leader. And so we get into these cultural differences ... and when we are talking 15 authors, it may not be that every one of those 15 came to the table and provided critical intellectual content. It may be instead that one of these authors did one step in the process. And so there are some value judgements involved here. And then here is an example from my own research group, something that I am 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. And so what we do, when we finish up these papers, is we assign a random number generator to the names, and sort them randomly, and we state that as such ... so, in this case, first author, last author, research leader... we're all mixed up together, but we're explicit about it. So these are difficult questions, and these are questions that require a lot of thinking. Just to give you some broad generalities, Reasons for Authorship ... Well, 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 a cause of that, that, that." or "Think about testing this hypothesis." And that may be a really critical input ... I mean, anybody can write the paper, but the question is who can conceive it. And then another reason is that the person worked very hard, in gathering or analyzing or processing the data. and that's a very valid reason to be an author. Now, there are some other reasons ... maybe the lab is yours; maybe you're the research leader, and that lab is yours. So, should your name be on each and every paper? Or maybe the [lead] author of the paper is your student. Should the advisor be a part of every paper that 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 basically, think about it ...authors should be people who made significant contributions to the overall effort of making that paper happen.

Video Details

Duration: 4 minutes and 25 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: A. Townsend Peterson
Director: A. Townsend Peterson
Views: 22
Posted by: townpeterson on Dec 29, 2012

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