Listing authors names on an article is an important mechanism to give credit to those who have significantly contributed to the work. It also ensures transparency for those who are responsible for the integrity of the content.
Authors listed on an article must meet all of the following criteria:
- Made a significant contribution to the work reported, whether that is in the conception, study design, execution, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretation, or in all these areas.
- Have drafted or written, or substantially revised or critically reviewed the article.
- Reviewed and agreed the final version accepted for publication, and any significant changes introduced at the proofing stage.
- Agree to take responsibility and be accountable for the contents of the article.
Authors declaration and warranties
By submitting any research article for the purposes of publication in The Journal the authors must certify and warrant that:
- The submitting author has been authorized by all co-authors to submit the research article; and
- They are the sole author(s) of the article and are legally able and entitled to submit the article and authorise The Journal to publish the research article.
- The research article is original, has not already been published in any other journal (medical, or otherwise) or is not currently under consideration for publication by another journal, and does not infringe any existing copyright or any other rights prescribed by law;
- The article contains nothing that is unlawful, defamatory, or which would, if published, constitute a breach of contract or of confidentiality;
- Due care, diligence and all other requisite investigations were carried out in the preparation of the research article(s) to ensure its accuracy. To the best of their knowledge all statements contained in it purporting to be factual are true and correct.
Large multicentre groups
When a large, multicentre group has conducted the work, the group should identify the individuals who accept direct responsibility for the manuscript. These individuals should fully meet the criteria for authorship defined above, and all those who qualify should be listed. When submitting a manuscript authored by a group, the corresponding author should clearly indicate the preferred citation and identify all individual authors as well as the group name. The group should jointly make decisions about authors before submitting the manuscript for publication. The corresponding or contact author should be prepared to explain the presence and order of these individuals. It is not the role of editors to make authorship/contributorship decisions or to arbitrate conflicts related to authorship.
Prior to submission, the authorship list and order must be agreed between all listed authors, and they must also agree on who will take on the role of corresponding or contact author. It is the responsibility of the corresponding or contact author to reach consensus with all co-authors regarding all aspects of the article including the authorship order and to ensure all correct affiliations have been listed. The corresponding or contact author is also responsible for liaising with co-authors regarding any editorial queries, and to act on behalf of all co-authors in any communication about the article through submission, peer review, production, and after publication. The corresponding or contact author is also responsible for signing the publishing agreement on behalf of all the listed authors.
Any individuals who have contributed to the article (e.g. general supervision, acquisition of funding, study design, data collection, data analysis, technical assistance, formatting-related writing assistance, scholarly discussions which significantly contributed to developing the article, etc), but who do not meet the criteria for authorship should be listed by name and affiliation in an ‘Acknowledgments’ section. It is the responsibility of the authors to notify and obtain permission from those they wish to identify in this section. The process of obtaining permission should include sharing the article, so that those being identified can verify the context in which their contribution is being acknowledged.
Authors must list all relevant affiliations to attribute where the research was approved and/or supported and/or conducted. For non-research articles, authors must list their current institutional affiliation. In cases where an author has moved to a different institution before the article has been published, they should list the affiliation where the work was conducted, and the current affiliation and contact details should be listed in the acknowledgment section. Change of affiliation alone is not a valid reason to remove an author from a publication if he or she meets the authorship criteria.
Common authorship issues
Number of authors
Consideration should be given to the number of qualified authors needed to take responsibility for the publication. To some extent, this will depend on the complexity of the research and of the publication, but it would be unusual in biomedical research (with few exceptions) to require >10 authors to meet this need. A high number of authors calls into question whether they could all have provided "substantial intellectual contribution." Fewer authors are often preferable, and others can be acknowledged (e.g., as nonauthor contributors or collaborators).
Authors should decide how this will be determined at the initiation of the work, including the designation of the lead and corresponding authors, who may or may not be the same person. Final order, however, should be based on authors' actual roles and contributions in the development of the publication. Those who made the greatest contribution are generally listed first, but alphabetical order may also be used.
Death or incapacity of an author
Should an author die after completing a major part of the work, posthumous authorship can be considered if agreed to by all other authors. In all cases, efforts should be made to contact the family of the deceased author to inform them of the intention and request their consent to the listing or acknowledgment.
Company- or sponsor-employed authors
Sponsor-employed scientists and clinicians are often qualified to participate as authors of company-sponsored research publications and should have that opportunity. Such authors should not be denied authorship because of concerns about perception of bias. Whatever criteria are used to determine authorship should be applied equally to company employees, contractors, and others.
Please note: Parts of the Authorship section are reprinted or adapted from the ICMJE Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors. The Journal prepared this reprint. The ICMJE has not endorsed nor approved the contents of this reprint. The official version of the Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors is located at the ICMJE website. Users should cite this official version when citing the document.
The "Authorship: Common issues" section was adapted from Battisti WP, Wager E, Baltzer L, Bridges D, Cairns A, Carswell CI, et al. Good Publication Practice for Communicating Company-Sponsored Medical Research: GPP3. Ann Intern Med. 2015;163:461-464. doi:10.7326/M15-0288 Appendix Table 2. Common Issues About Authorship.