Who is an author?

William “Lliam” Harrison, J.D., M.A., Director of Research Integrity

One might think this is an easy question to answer, but there is actually some debate on the issue.  Fortunately, there is guidance.  The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (www.icmje.org) has set forth a simple four-part test.  To properly be considered an author of a scholarly work, one must

  • Have made substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Been involved in drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Had a say in the final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agree 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.

All four conditions have to be met to qualify as an author.  The first criterion is the most significant, and if a contributor meets that part of the test, she must be given the opportunity to meet the rest.  A corresponding author must meet all four criteria and must also assume responsibility for dealing with the editorial staff of the journal to which the article is submitted.

In cases where an individual cannot meet all four authorship criteria, “contributor acknowledgement” is appropriate.  Such acknowledgement can be offered individually or in a group, and should identify the particular contribution (e.g. “data collection” or “edited earlier versions of the manuscript.”

Additional authorship resources can be found at the following: