Friday, 25 May 2018

It’s time to agree on author order

by Terence McCann


Most of us have pondered the order of authors listed on a paper. Aside from our personal confusion about each author’s contribution, questionable authorship practices in leading peer-reviewed nursing and midwifery journals are a significant threat to the integrity of nursing and midwifery scholarship and research. Although broad guidelines regarding publishing practices exist, there appears to be a general absence of or adherence to regulatory guidance concerning authorship and author order. In addition, authorship trends differ across disciplines and countries, leaving the reader unable to determine which authorship convention has been followed. Hence, transparency in author attribution seems to be the exception rather than the rule. The confusion and contentiousness of author order are exacerbated by its potential influence on opportunities for employment, promotion, tenure and research funding. Although it is generally accepted that first and last authors receive the most credit – and the first author is almost always considered the most valuable position on a paper –there is little consistency in how author order is determined. Adoption of a set of principles to guide and justify author order is needed. In a forthcoming discussion paper, McCann and Polacsek (2018) recommend that the ‘first-last-author-emphasis’ be adopted uniformly internationally across nursing and midwifery research. The first author should have made the most significant contribution to the paper; the last author should have made the second most significant contribution to the study, or served as a senior academic or mentor on the study; and other authors should be listed in descending order of their contribution.

McCann, T. V., & Polacsek, M. (2018). Addressing the vexed issue of authorship and author order: A discussion paper. Journal of Advanced Nursing. DOI: 10.1111/jan.13720

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