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Bourbonniere MC et al 2006

It is recognised that authorship, in terms of who is an author on a paper and the order of author’s names, can be a tricky issue; especially in projects that involve a number of colleagues and/or students. This is because publication has a critical role to play in the careers of researchers so it can be a source of conflict.

This paper presents a critical discussion of the authorship issue. It came about because a research team, CanChild, decided they needed to develop authorship guidelines to acknowledge authorship and to prevent possible misunderstandings. Their experience is described and reflected upon as a case study. The different approaches to assigning authorship identified in the literature are summarised as a preface to the description of how they developed their guidelines. This summary is useful for anyone, like me, who is new to this topic. They used one of the approaches they found (the University of Wollagong guidelines) as the starting point for their team’s guidelines. Their ambition was develop guidelines which were explicit and flexible.

As a result of their experiences Bourbonniere and colleagues (2006) suggested

  • It is important to have early and ongoing discussion between all potential authors.
  • Authorship should be a regular agenda item at project meetings.
  • The project investigator (PI) is responsible for negotiating expectations about authorship particularly when team members leave or join projects part way through.
  • Usually the PI has first opportunity to take lead authorship on the lead article
  • Having a written and disseminated plan of publications for the project (they illustrated this point with a study publication grid that they developed for the CanChild project).
  • The assigning of authorship should be explicit before the writing process begins.
  • Drafts should not be circulated for review until authorship has been agreed.
  • Having a role for readers who read later drafts and provide general feedback; these people should be acknowledged but there should not be an expectation of authorship
  • Using their guidelines as a starting point for discussion about authorship in a research team.

This all seems like sensible advice to me. On the face of it the guidelines developed and the study publication grid presented in the paper suggest that CanChild have developed workable guidelines. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating; we are going to use the guidelines as a basis for discussion of authorship in the Measure of Participation (MOP) team.

The link to the CanChild guidelines on authorship is

If you would like to read the article the full reference is:
Bourbonniere MC, Russell DJ, Goldsmith CH (2006) Authorship issues: One research centre’s experience with developing author guidelines. American Journal of Occupational Therapy 60 (1) 111-117.