Growth in academics is often considered a function of the number of publications a researcher has against his name. However, does this ‘number’ accurately reflect the depth and range of his academic proficiency? Would it not be more useful to know his exact contribution to a publication? It is for this reason that there is a growing movement to ensure greater transparency in defining the role of different authors in a scientific paper–a journal policy upheaval that can remove the relative opaqueness currently associated with author credit.
In the current academic space, readers need to ‘infer’ the relative contribution of each author based on his/her position in the order of the author list. Usually, the first author is considered to be the major contributor. However, this is not the most efficient solution to ensure authorship transparency. Recently, editors and publishers from different academic disciplines discussed systemic solutions for this problem, and recommended that journals adopt “common and transparent standards for authorship” (McNutt et al., 2018)
One of their core recommendations was regarding adoption of Contributor Roles Taxonomy (CRediT) (docs.casrai.org/CRediT) methodology for characterizing the contribution of different authors to a publication and including this information in article metadata. This system has 13 categories, including ‘Conceptualization’, ‘Investigation’, ‘Writing’ (original draft), and ‘Supervision’, with a provision for allocating every author's efforts into one or more of these categories (Figure 1). Such a standardized approach can ensure human- and machine-readable reporting of authors’ contributions across journals. The committee has also made suggestions regarding the role of the corresponding authors and suggested that he(they) be recognized as the individual(s) who played a leading role in the research.
Figure 1: Sub-elements defining contributor’s role
The use of standard individual identifiers, especially ORCID identifiers (https://orcid.org) has also been suggested by the committee. In the near future, a unique identifier linked to every author could enable linking data from different publications, including CRediT contributions. Collecting such data during the manuscript submission and publication processes can help both the investigators involved and the scientific community.
Overall, ensuring authorship transparency can bring about a decisive shift in the scientific publication landscape, and increase the levels of ownership in research. Moreover, it can also help in curbing unethical publication practices. It is now the onus of scientific societies to further pursue authorship transparency by signing on to the recommendations made by McNutt et al., 2018 and promote them through their meetings and publication programs.
Turacoz Skill Development Program (TSDP), a wing of Turacoz Healthcare Solutions (THS), offers medical writing training courses for students, freshers and healthcare professionals in lifesciences and clinical research sector. We provide both online and classroom trainings for regulatory writing, medico marketing writing and publication. TSDP understands that author non-transparency and lack of appropriate credit can hamper science and ensuring the same is crucial. We train our students to follow GPP3 guidelines for all publications and comply with all legal, ethical and regulatory requirements. To know more about our courses please visit the section on ‘Trainings Offered’.