How do you decide who is an author on a paper? I teach in a course where medical students do some introductory research and they are thinking forward to publication. They were concerned about how to ensure some established faculty members got on the paper – and were flummoxed when I asked why those people would be on the paper.
I was taught – and follow – that people who significantly contribute to the paper are authors. If someone provided samples but didn’t provide ideas or trouble-shoot, they are acknowledged but not given authorship. My students disagreed and told me that you have to include the big shots, that’s how it is done. I disagree but what do you think?
When I took to the internet, I was vindicated that in my discipline (biology/medicine), the convention is that authors have intellectually contributed to the paper. This is a good starting point about types of authorship and remember, there are different conventions in each field. I really like the point system by Stephen Kosslyn and am thinking of doing something similar.
But I’m concerned that the medical students were adamant that senior faculty have to be given authorship. When I asked why, they said it is a mark of respect – and that it is just done that way. They argued with me, saying that I was naive and had never published (I have and they haven’t). What type of culture is being set up here?
I never saw the point in publicly announcing what each author did for the paper but if courtesy authorship is flourishing, maybe we should have to be account for each author decision.
What would you have said to the students? If they come back with senior faculty as authors who only provided samples, should I push them to explain this decision?