Scientific publications and authorship guidelines / Вимоги до наукових публікацій та авторство робіт




Properly recognizing authors that have contributed to a body of research is not only important for avoiding disputes between members of a research group, or among participants in a research collaboration, but also for ensuring that a submitted manuscript or abstract is not found to have violated a publisher’s guidelines and disqualified for presentation or publication. Fortunately, most disputes and problems can be avoided through following field-specific standards and making sure all participants are aware of publication requirements issued by the journal’s publisher or a conference’s organizers.


Authorship can be conferred to any contributing researcher and should be based on total effort as well as their contribution to the final manuscript or presentation. As such, a list of authors may include Senior Scientists; Junior Scientists; Students working towards their Ph.D., M.D., M.S., and even B.S. degree; or even Research Staff and Technicians.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends that authorship be based on a contributors ability to meet all of the four following criteria: [1]

  1. Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  3. Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  4. Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.


In other words, all authors should be directly involved in the work and are required to have contributed to, reviewed, and approved the final manuscript. In order to prevent the inappropriate assignment of scientific credit or diluting the significance of the other contributing authors, any individual that meets fewer than all four (4) of the ICMJE recommended criteria for authorship should not be listed as an author. This guideline is especially important for preventing the occurrence of “Gift Authors” in scientific presentations and publications. Gift Authors are defined by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) as people listed as authors, often senior officials, that did not make a significant contribution to the research and therefore do not fulfill the ICMJE requirements but are listed to gain favor, make a resume look favorable, or out of expectation. [2] Furthermore, the granting of authorship on a scientific publication to a person who has not made a sufficiently substantial scientific contribution through the inclusion of Gift Authors is a violation of scientific integrity. [3]


The order of authors can be a contentious issue and rules for determining the order of authors within a research group should be agreed upon early in the process. In the biological sciences it is generally understood that the most senior author, or Principal Investigator (PI) [4], and thus the scientist responsible for the work, is listed last. [5]  In following the first-last-author-emphasis (FLAE) standard, it is also generally understood that the First Author is the scientist (often a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow) that bore the majority of the responsibility for performing the research as well as the development of the manuscript. As such, the first author gets primary credit for the work, the last author is the senior scientist that directed the research, and the intermediate authors are listed in order of total effort that they contributed to the work. [6]

According to the Council of Science Editors’ Authorship and Authorship Responsibilities an author is not only accountable for the parts of the work that he or she has personally conducted, but as an author, they should also be able to specifically identify which of their co-authors are responsible for other parts of the work. In other words, an author should have confidence in the integrity of the contributions of their co-authors. [7]


The acknowledgements section should be used to recognize Contributors and to prevent the inclusion of Gift Authors or the occurrence of Ghost Authors. Any individual that meets fewer than all 4 of the ICMJE recommended criteria for authorship should not be listed as an author, but they can be acknowledged within the manuscript or presentation. Therefore, an acknowledgement section should be included in any manuscript or presentation in order to prevent creating Gift Authors, but allow for recognizing administrators and institutional officials who may provide a supportive environment for conducting research but play no direct role in the work. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) defines “Ghost Authors” as professional writers or individuals that made a significant contribution to the research but are not listed as authors or mentioned within a manuscript or presentation. [2] Therefore, the acknowledgements section should also used to recognize individuals who contributed to the work but are not listed as an author, or do not meet the requirements for being listed as an author, in order to prevent the creation of Ghost Authors.


Prior to developing or submitting any manuscript or abstract, it is important to review and understand the conference organizer’s or publisher’s editorial policy on authorship. These instructions are often freely accessible on the publisher’s or conference organizer’s Web site, and it is important to understand your responsibility to properly represent your research and those that have contributed to the presentation or manuscript. Errors in properly crediting authors is common, and a recent analysis of Biochemia Medica publications identified that up to 40% of authors were in violation of the journal’s authorship criteria. As a result of these errors though, journal editors are increasingly attempting to raise awareness of their authorship requirements and raising awareness of the COPE’s Code of Conduct flowcharts ( and ICMJE Recommendations ( [8]

Therefore, it is in every researcher’s best interest to prevent the complications that submitting a manuscript or abstract that raises questions about the validity of its authorship can create by avoiding situations often caused by the inclusion of multiple gift authors, which are often identified by having an impossibly prolific first author, poorly defined roles and contributions to the research by each author, or a corresponding author that is unable to respond to reviewer’s comments. [9]

Be sure to avoid running into authorship problems by:

  • Doing research on the submission requirements of the journal or conference;
  • Properly recognizing (crediting) all contributing authors, and agreeing on a clearly defined order of authors;
  • Including an acknowledgements section to recognize senior officials in order to avoid violating publisher’s instructions through the inclusion of gift authors in the list of authors;
  • Avoiding the creation of ghost authors by recognizing all contributors that do not meet all of the ICMJE requirements for an author in the acknowledgements section.


[1] International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, “Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors,” Annals of Internal Medicine / American College of Physicians, 01 Jan 2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 15 February 2016].
[2] T. Albert and E. Wager, “How to handle authorship disuptes: a guide for new researchers,”, Surrey, 2003.
[3] Scientific Integrity Committee of the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, “Authorship in scientific publications – Analysis and Recommendations,” Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences, Bern, 2013.
[4] NIH, “NIH Grants Glossary & Acronym List – Program Director / Principal Investigator,”, 20 March 2013. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 15 February 2016].
[5] A. Dance, “Who’s On First?,” Nature, vol. 489, p. 591, 27 September 2012.
[6] T. Tscharntke, M. E. Hochberg, T. A. Rand, V. H. Resh and J. Krauss, “Author Sequence and Credit for Contributions in Multiauthored Publications,” PLoS Biology, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 13-14, e18 January 2007.
[7] CSE Editorial Policy Committee, “White Paper on Publication Ehtics – 2.2 Authorship and Authorship Responsibilities,” 30 March 2012. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 15 February 2016].
[8] V. Supak-Smolcic and A.-M. Simundic, “Biochemia Medica’s editorial policy on authorship,” Biochemia Medica, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 320-323, July 2015.
[9] COPE, “Committee On Publication Ethics – How to Spot Authorship Problems,” Sideview, 1 January 2013. [Online]. Available: [Accessed 15 February 2016].