Authorship as part of responsible conduct of research – TENK guideline

Among the guidelines of the Finnish National Board on Research Integrity (TENK) is a “Guideline for agreeing on authorship. Recommendation for research publications“, dated 14.12.2017. The TENK guidelines are collected in, direct link to the authorship guideline is: recommend that all doctoral students (and postdocs, and others!) read the TENK guideline at least once through. Some of the headings of the report include:

  • What is authorship in research publications?
  • Authorship comes with a responsibility for the content
  • Authorship is not related to the employment contract
  • Authorship of a dissertation

The guideline also contains a description of terms associated with authorship and its disregard. The following terms are included:

  • Acknowledgements, Conflicts of interest, Contributorship and other responsibilities, Copyright, Corresponding author, Disregard for the responsible conduct of research, Editing, Ghost author, ghostwriter, Guarantor, Honorary/guest/gift authorship, Label for peer-reviewed scholarly publications, Medical writer, Misappropriation, Misconduct, Open collaborative authorship, Order of authors, Plagiarism, Predatory publications, RCR, responsible conduct of research, Self-plagiarism, Substantial contribution.

(From the guideline; bolding is by the blog author.)  “The Finnish National Board on research Integrity TENK is informed of all notifications of violations of the responsible conduct of research (RCR) in Finland. In recent years, authorship disputes have increased in Finland and worldwide. Disputes should be resolved before the manuscript is submitted for publication as in the worst case they lead to an investigation into violation of the responsible conduct of research (RCR). The disputes that arise are often linked to incorrect expectations and poor or non-existent communication between the members of a research project. It is difficult to resolve these disputes later if the authors of the research publication were not agreed in advance. The aim of this recommendation is to facilitate discussion of authorship.

What is authorship in research publications?

What is authorship in research publications? In this recommendation, authorship means all activity that produces and enables research data. From the point of view of research integrity, author means a person who has made such a substantial contribution to a scientific article or other publication that they should be named in the list of authors and contributors. People listed as authors or editors may add the publication in question to their own list of publications. Not all contributions need to be included in the list of authors and authorship does not necessarily have to be based on a written contribution. If the work carried out for the publication does not qualify the contributor for inclusion in the list of authors, the contribution can be described in the publication’s acknowledgements. It should also be noted that even if participation does not entitle the contributor to be included in the list of authors, a person may have copyright to particular parts of the publication, such as the illustrations.

Practices in each discipline vary regarding who is named in the list of authors. Besides writing the text of the published article, the following are all contributions:, conceptualising and planning the research, producing research material, analysis or interpretation, developing material or methods benefitted from in the work, editing a book by more than one author, and creating images that illustrate the research. Agreement must be reached on how these contributions are to be acknowledged in the publication.

Authorship comes with a responsibility for the content

Authorship brings a researcher recognition for the work they have done but at the same time, as an author, they undertake to take responsibility for the content of the published research and its findings. If not otherwise stated in the publication, the authors whose names appear in the list of authors share responsibility jointly for the whole publication. In multi-disciplinary or wide-ranging research projects, the research publication may include very different research elements, so in practice it may be impossible to demand that all the authors listed take responsibility for every stage of the research. Here, one option is to make a contributorship statement in connection with the list of authors. However, at least one chosen contributor should take responsibility for the content of the whole publication as a guarantor.

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Posted by Riikka Puurunen

About Riikka Puurunen

Associate professor, Catalysis Science and Technology, at Aalto since February 2017
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