Publishing Ethics – who should be named as an author?

People not involved in research may consider this a silly question, as the answer is obvious: the people that did the work or at least wrote it up for publication. But what happens when lots of people did something, or there is a senior member of the department who historically gets their names on the articles because of who they are? Indeed a question more often asked within departments is, ‘what is order of authors?’. But I would argue that many of the historical practices leading to multiple authors may be inaccurate and even inappropriate. Being the ‘boss’ or part of the larger team, does not entitle you to being a named author.

The International Committee Medical Journal Editors and Blackwell-Synergy publishing, say that the authorship criteria are;

1) substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data;
2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and
3) final approval of the version to be published.
and that to be an author you should meet conditions 1, 2 and 3.

Whilst all other contributors who do not qualify as authors should be listed and their particular contribution described in an acknowledgement section.

I think these guidelines are very clear and consequently I would like this information to be more widely disseminated. This would be of great benefit to junior researchers who may have been left off papers and also as armoury to use with those higher in their institutions who feel they have the right to be included, but have made little or no contribution to the work.

In short what is important is your contribution, not your rank!