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December 2013

Publication practices in multidisciplinary teams: a closer look at authorship assignment and ranking

This project led by Drs Zubin Master (PI) and Bryn Williams-Jones (co-Investigator) aims to better understand the norms, values, practices, and knowledge surrounding research integrity that contribute to authorship assignment and ranking in multi/interdisciplinary research groups, using public health researchers as a case study.

Authorship practices are often shaped by disciplinary culture and different disciplines vary in how they assign and rank authors. Despite the growth in multi/interdisciplinary health research programs (e.g., public health, bioethics, science and technology studies), very little work has focused on understanding authorship assignment and ranking in multi/interdisciplinary teams. If disciplinary cultures shape authorship practices, it is reasonable to suppose that there would be greater variation within multi/interdisciplinary teams. Using a bibliometric approach, we will identify authors who have published in public health journals in the last five years where the corresponding author is from a US or Canadian institution. Through purposive sampling, we will select participants for semi-structured interviews based on authorship practices, public health topic, location, and job title. Interviews will be performed with trainees (doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows) and junior and senior faculty until data saturation is obtained. We adopted a qualitative approach because it permits us to ask complex questions and allows interviewees to provide meaningful responses and insight into the reasons, motives and interests for particular authorship practices. Interview transcripts will be analyzed qualitatively through a modified grounded theory approach with constant comparison analysis to identify emerging themes.

The information gathered in this study will inform the development of guidance on authorship assignment and ranking in the context of research involving multidisciplinary teams. While the study is focusing on public health in particular, as a case study, the aim is to develop insights that will contribute to broader reflections on ethical authorship practices in general, and in the context of multi/interdisciplinary collaborations.

    January 2009

    Authorship research project

    Although there is no universally agreed definition of authorship, authorship of research publications is a major requirement for academic advancement and a common cause of disputes among colleagues. Most research on authorship issues comes from biomedicine, where the authorship criteria are those of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. In order to make informed guidelines on authorship and set directions for future research, it is important to analyze authorship requirements across different research fields, as well as the current state of research into authorship. We are therefore conducting a systematic review of literature in major bibliographical databases from different scientific disciplines. We are also examining the definition of authorship and requirements for contribution disclosure in a sample of journals from different scientific disciplines. Finally, we plan to survey editors on their concepts of authorship across scientific disciplines, and use these findings as a tool for the analysis of policy issues around authorship. This project is the research effort of Ana Marusic and her collaborators from the Croatian Medical Journal and the Croatian Centre for Public Health, University of Split School of Medicine, Split, Croatia.


    Literature appraisal for the systematic review of research on authorship is completed and we are currently working on the results synthesis and manuscript preparation. We also collected data on authorship policies in journals from different disciplines, as well as definitions and policies of different professional, academic or research organizations or associations. These results are now being written up in a second manuscript.

    The results of this part of the research will be presented at the Second World Conference on Research Integrity in Singapore, 21-24 July 2010, where we plan to start the Delphi process for discussing the definitions of authorship across scientific disciplines.

    Research on the authorship/publication practices of editors in their own journal has been completed and the manuscript has been accepted for publication. Details of the published article will follow.