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Authorship Considerations

Publication is the primary means by which the knowledge generated from research and other scholarly activities is advanced. Inclusion in the authorship of a publication conveys credit for an individual’s contributions to the research or scholarly project. Publications produced under the auspices of the University of Michigan (U-M) should reflect the actual author contributions to the final published product. Therefore, knowing the expectations, processes, and implications for authorship and publication are key factors in a successful research or scholarly project. Having a clear understanding of who should be an author on a given publication and establishing expectations at the beginning of a project will help eliminate disputes and misunderstandings down the road.

The U-M Office of Research (UMOR) has published Guidelines for Authorship and Avoiding Authorship Disputes. The guidelines include additional information about authorship.

Authorship Criteria

For an individual to merit authorship at U-M, that individual should meet the requirements set out in the following four criteria:

  1. Significant contribution to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work;
  2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content;
  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 accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated.

All individuals who fulfill the first criterion should be given the opportunity to participate in drafting, reviewing, and approving the manuscript.

Authors are not those who carry out routine work on the project, including:

  • Providing work space, instrumentation, or funding
  • Consulting or materials for a fee
  • Administrative support
  • Routine technical work or patient care
  • Writing assistance, proofreading, or basic editing of the manuscript

Credit for routine project work is commonly given via acknowledgments placed in footnotes or in a separate “Acknowledgments” section placed towards the end of a manuscript.

Authorship Practices

As a U-M researcher or scholar, you are expected to follow proper authorship practices, including:

  • Learning and applying the standard for crediting authors (e.g., order of multiple authors) and for acknowledging other support per your research discipline, the sponsor requirements, and the particular journal.
  • Ethically reporting author affiliation to indicate where the research or scholarly project occured. If different from the author’s current primary employment, then including an updated author affiliation.
  • Including detailed methodology and all pertinent data, whether supportive or contradictory of the work’s hypothesis or conclusion.
  • Presenting the data accurately.
  • Identifying and disclosing potentially hazardous aspects of the research.
  • Disclosing conflicts of interest that may bias the interpretation of the research.
  • Discussing, early and often, the expectations for authorship.
  • If necessary, referring authorship disputes to appropriate institutional or external entities for resolution.

Improper authorship practices, including the following, should be avoided:

  • Ghost authoring: having someone other than the listed research team write the publication but not be listed as an author.
  • Honor/gift authoring: inclusion of an individual who did not make a significant intellectual contribution to the project as a professional favor or to increase the credibility of the publication.
  • Duplicating publications: re-publishing the same work with no or slight variation and without disclosure.
  • Fragmented publications: publication dividing work into multiple publications to increase your professional reputation, volume of work, etc.
  • Plagiarism: the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit. Allegations of plagiarism are reviewed under U-M SPG 303.03 and could result in a finding of research misconduct against an individual.

Below is a worksheet that can be used for consideration, discussion, and planning at the start of a project that may lead to publication. Individuals may find it useful to complete the worksheet at the beginning of a project or during the drafting of a manuscript to determine authorship inclusion and authorship order expectations.