Course:KIN570/TOPICS/Journal Issues/Authorship

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Research Methods in Kinesiology
KIN 570
Section: 001
Instructor: Nicola Hodges
April Karlinsky
Office Hours:
Class Schedule:
Important Course Pages
Lecture Notes
Course Discussion

Contributing to the publication and dissemination of research is an integral and expected activity of members of the academic community.[1] Authorship is also rewarded: an individual’s publication history and potential for future publications play a large role in decisions regarding funding, hiring, promotion, tenure, and salary.[1][2]

What merits authorship?

Participation in the research process can take many forms and can contribute to varying degrees to the completion of a research project. As publication is associated with significant rewards (see above[1]), it is important to follow the available guidelines as to what truly merits the distinction of authorship; this will help to accurately reflect the abilities of the researchers and maintain the integrity of the authorship-reward system by revealing the most worthy candidates of accolades.

To earn authorship recognition, an individual must provide a substantial intellectual contribution to the research project.[1][3][4]

Such contributions can be towards the....

  • Concept
  • Design
  • Execution
  • Interpretation
  • Writing of the manuscript

...of a research project.[1][3][4][5]

Contributions that do not generally merit authorship credit can include...[1][3][5]

  • Holding an administrative position
  • Procuring or providing funding
  • Reviewing or editing a manuscript
  • Clerical or manual data collection
  • Data cleaning
  • Providing resources
  • Basic instrumentation maintenance

It may be appropriate to mention significant, but non-authorship contributions, in an introductory statement, footnote, or acknowledgement section at the end of a manuscript.[3]

The evolution of authorship

In the past, research has been a fairly solitary endeavor.[6] This simplified the question of authorship, as investigators took sole ownership of their works, accepting all credit and accountability.[6] Since the 1950s, however, there has been a marked shift towards multiple authorship.[6] This trend has paralleled the ever-growing knowledge base and specialization of jobs, which makes it increasingly difficult to single-handedly possess the expertise necessary to support a complex research project,[6] as well as the ‘publish or perish’ mentality upheld by academic institutions.[2]

The shift towards collaborative works has been especially evident in more scientifically oriented journals as opposed to those focusing on theoretical/philosophical/historical content[2] (see [2] for a comparison of single versus multiple authorship trends in selected kinesiology-related journals). 

It is clear that although single authorship is lauded for its capacity to reflect individuals' research abilities and independence, and to establish their identity and credibility, multiple authorship is now the norm.[2][6] Fortunately, multiple authorship has its advantages too, a sampling of which are presented in the next section.

Advantages of multiple authorship

  • Higher quality work
    • Multiple authorship serves as a preliminary peer review process - the collaborators represent a first round of checks and balances in addition to a journal’s refereeing system, which theoretically guaranteeing higher quality work. [2]

  • Greater knowledge base
    • Research collaborations provide a richer and more diversified knowledge base enabling more complex and multidisciplinary investigations, with each contributor providing a specialized area of expertise.[2]

  • Labor division
    • The collaborators can refer to individual skill sets to create the strongest research project and manuscript.[2]

  • Higher publication rate
    • The above-mentioned division of labor theoretically means that each individual’s work load on a given project is diminished, allowing for faster project completion. Researchers would also theoretically have more time to be involved in multiple projects at once, increasing publication rates. The higher quality work associated with multiple authorship, also described above, further lends itself to increased publication rates, as strong research is more likely to be published.[2]

  • Enhance motivation + decrease procrastination
    • Working with others often helps to sustain the momentum necessary to complete the research by discouraging procrastination and increasing accountability.[2]

  • Idea generation
    • Brainstorming with colleagues can prompt new research questions and investigations.[2]

Authorship order

In addition to the number of publications, an author’s position within the byline is also noteworthy.[1][4] As there is no standardized system to determine authorship order, these decisions can be the source of disputes.[1] While the authorship order norms vary from research field to research field, and even lab to lab, most guidelines advocate that the order of authorship be assigned according to the magnitude of the contribution in descending order.[4] The exception to this is the significance of the last position in the byline; this spot is often filled by a senior team member who likely provided a great conceptual contribution.[4] While ideally the magnitude of each research project team member’s contribution could be agreed upon through discussion, point system have also been proposed for an objective calculation of each member’s contribution (for an example of which, see [4]).

Ethical considerations

In order to maintain the integrity of the research and publication systems, readers must be able to trust that authors present an honest representation of their investigation and findings.[6] Below are a few key ethical issues that research contributors must consider throughout the authorship process.

Citation of sources Authors must reference all information excluding that which is common knowledge. It is also their duty to conduct a thorough literature search and cite closely related works so as to accurately present the current state of the research field.[3]
Conflict of interest This refers to when a member of the research project, peer review, or publication process has a connection that could inappropriately influence judgment. Declare any potential conflicts of interest.[3]
Redundant publication This refers to when there is a substantial overlap between a manuscript and one already published. Manuscript submissions should not have been previously published or under review elsewhere.[3]

Ethical Principles

Ethical Principles Definition
Beneficent Being beneficent can be described as being helpful to others and assisting them with their main concerns.[1]
Justice The responsibility of being fair to others and providing them with their rights.[1]
Parentalism When taking control of liberty of someone without their permission, in order to prevent them from a risk of harm they might face or the benefit they might miss[1]

10 themes to consider

Research project team members should discuss their roles early and often![5] To help prevent any surprises or conflicts over authorship, include the following on every manuscript draft:

Theme Explanation
Authorship credit / Non authorship contribution People should be considered as an author only when they have a substantial contribution in work. [5]
Student authorship When a work is derived from student's thesis, their name should be ranked as first author.[5]
Authorship order Senior team member decides the authorship order based on magnitude of contribution.[5]
Recognizing contributors The section stating appreciation of minor contributors.[5]
Agreement of contributors Statement from all authors agreeing on their contribution and order of authorship.[5]
Seniority The section stating responsibility of senior researchers protecting junior researchers from authorship abuse.[5]
Plagiarism Situation when someone claims authorship for someone else.[5]
Institutional authorship policy A policy preventing members from accidental conflict and dishonestly in a research.[5]
Review/approval of manuscript A section indicating all coauthor's approval on their section of responsibility or on the entire manuscript.[5]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Fine, M. A. & Kurdek, L. A. (1993). Reflections on determining authorship credit and authorship order on faculty-student collaborations. American psychologist, 48(11), 1141-1147.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 Crase, D. & Rosato, F. D. (1992). Single versus multiple authorship in professional journals. Journal of physical education, recreation & dance, 63(7), 28-31.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Syrett, K. L. & Rudner, L. M. (1996). Authorship ethics. Practical assessment, research, & evaluation, 5(1).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Digiusto, E. (1994). Equity in authorship: A strategy for assigning credit when publishing. Society of science and medicine, 38(1), 55-58.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 Osborne, J. W. & Holland, A. (2009). What is authorship, and what should it be? A survey of prominent guidelines for determining authorship in scientific publications. Practical assessment, research & evaluation, 14(15), 1-19.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Rennie, D., Yank, V., & Emanuel, L. (1997). When authorship fails: A proposal to make contributors accountable. The journal of the American medical association, 278(7), 579-585.