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  4. Understanding responsible authorship

Understanding responsible authorship

The University has set requirements for authorship. While authorship requirements may vary across disciplines and journals, the Research Code of Conduct sets out the University’s approach to research authorship at clause 12.

Authorship criteria

Include all researchers who satisfy authorship criteria and do not include researchers who do not satisfy authorship requirements. The University’s minimum requirement for authorship is a substantial intellectual contribution to the published work in at least one of the following:

(a) conception and design of the project
(b) analysis and interpretation of research data or of the eligibility or suitability of potential subjects of research, or
(c) drafting significant parts of the work or critically revising it so as to contribute to the interpretation.

Authorship requirements vary according to discipline, journal requirements and funding provisions, and may be more stringent than the University’s requirements in some cases. Researchers need to comply with all relevant authorship requirements, including the Research Code of Conduct, the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, and any applicable guidelines.

Contributions to work that do not amount to authorship, such as technical writing and research assistance, should be appropriately acknowledged.

Common issue: Someone entitled to authorship is left off a publication.

Solution: Discuss authorship early and often, review the authorship criteria relevant to the publication. Consider an authorship agreement form to record who did what, so no one is left out. Make sure the discussion focuses on actual contributions to the work, not broader issues.

Discussing authorship and authorship order

Authorship order is not something that is covered in the Research Code of Conduct – principally because authorship order conventions vary widely between different fields of research. The order of authors on a work is typically negotiated among the authors, based on relative contribution and practices in the discipline.

Authorship is complicated and it is normal for there to be some debate about the composition of an author list. Decisions regarding authorship should be made by consensus among the contributing researchers.

It is important to make sure discussions about authorship composition and order remain objective and grounded in contributions to the actual work – as opposed to broader interpersonal differences, side-deals, or external events.

Authorship should be discussed openly, early, and often. Where arrangements are in place, these should be periodically reviewed, particularly if the work changes (for example, between submission and acceptance). Make sure to take written notes of discussions and decisions around authorship, and share written records with other authors to minimise any misunderstandings, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

The University has developed an authorship agreement form, which is a template for recording authorship decisions, including authorship order and acknowledgements of non-authorship contributions.

Common issue: A researcher expects authorship on a publication without doing any work.

Solution: Review the authorship criteria relevant to the publication, consider an authorship agreement form to record who did what, discuss the situation with your supervisor or co-authors with reference to the applicable authorship criteria.

If you have questions about authorship, seek advice from your supervisor(s), a senior researcher in your discipline, a Research Integrity Adviser (RIA) or Research Integrity. You can also contact SUPRA for help.

Written by the Research Integrity Office

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Written September 2022

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