The Official Policy on Authorship

Continuing with the recent thread on AGU Publication Policies, I would like to bring to your attention the official AGU stance on authorship for papers in AGU journals. The AGU Council approved a position statement on authorship back in 2006, which is still AGU policy on this topic. An Eos article about it can be found here:

It’s a short (half-page) article, and only the first half is about the authorship policy, so it will only take you a minute to read.

The key condition for authorship is this: “only those who have significantly contributed to the research and preparation of the article should be listed as coauthors.” Others that helped out but whose contribution does not rise to the level of significant should be listed in the Acknowledgments rather than elevated to author status. The responsibility for making this judgment call of who made a significant contribution is placed on the corresponding author. As an editor, I do not verify author contributions; this is really an ethical integrity issue of the coauthor and corresponding author.

Another key point in the policy statement is this: “all of these coauthors share responsibility for submitted articles.” For anyone who has submitted to an AGU journal in recent years, you know that the corresponding author must type their initials in a box stating that all authors meet this criterion, that they have seen the final version of the manuscript, and that they approve of the findings of the study. And, of course, all authors (not just the corresponding author) get an email from AGU stating that a paper has been submitted that lists you as an author. If you get one of these emails and did not see the final version of the manuscript, then please contact the author and let them know that this is not appropriate. If you cannot resolve it with them directly, then email the assigned editor or the AGU staff (or me and I can direct you the right person) and we will handle the situation on a more formal level.

This definition of authorship is at odds with the “authorship parsing” suggestion that is being considered across the scientific world right now (and on which I wrote a few days ago). With authorship parsing, each section or subsection would have authors listed, and people would not be held responsible for content in the other sections of the paper. With AGU’s current policy, all authors are responsible for the entire content of the paper.

So, please read any manuscript for which someone wants to include you as an author because the official policy is that you cannot claim to be responsible for just part of it. Because this is how we currently treat citation counts, h indices, and other personal publication metrics, “all in” or “completely out” is the right way to define authorship.


One thought on “The Official Policy on Authorship

  1. Pingback: Scientific Coauthorship | Notes from the JGR-Space Physics Editor-in-Chief

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