Image: Responsibility, by Nathan Siemers CC BY-SA 2.0 via flickr.com
I spend a lot of time talking with students and colleagues about what authorship means, and about what criteria one might use for assigning it. That’s partly because the nature of authorship is both complex and (especially for early-career scientists) critically important. It’s also because my research has evolved in ways that mean I rarely write a single-authored paper any more. In fact, I rarely write a 2- or 3-authored paper any more.
There’s nothing unusual about me (in this respect); the lengths of author lists have been increasing in almost every field. In some fields, they’ve reached startling proportions, with author lists surpassing 5,000. It’s not universally agreed exactly what contributions merit authorship, or what responsibilities coauthors bear. However, one thing we often hear – and I’m pretty sure, one thing I’ve said – is that each coauthor should be willing to take responsibility for the entire paper. Continue reading