“…the credit derived from publications is used to determine a researcher’s worth. Researchers are valued and promoted in accordance with the quality and quantity of their research publications”

ORI Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research, 2007, p. 134

To be named as an author on a research output is meritorious. Authorship signifies that an individual has contributed to the work and is accountable for it. It also carries significant value for a researcher. It is therefore important that authorship is attributed accurately and responsibly.

How is authorship decided?

Attribution of authorship and author order depends to some extent on the discipline. In all cases authorship must be based on a substantive contribution to the work. The Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research (the Code) recommends that researchers should discuss authorship at an early stage in a research project to establish:

  • Who will be listed as an author on potential research outputs
  • The order in which the authors will be listed
  • The responsibilities of each author

Researchers should keep written records of agreements and review their authorship decisions periodically. Such revisions may be necessitated, for example, by a researcher joining or leaving the project, which may affect author eligibility and order.

Researchers at UQ must comply with the author eligibility criteria described in the University's Authorship policy. Authorship is not tied to position or profession and must not be offered to those who do not meet the requirements; gift, ghost or honorary authorship is unacceptable. Researchers must also comply with requirements of the journal to which they are submitting.

What are the responsibilities of authors?

The contributions of authors on a research publication will often vary. All authors, however, have responsibility for the validity, originality and integrity of the work. The University's authorship policy sets out the responsibilities of all authors, which include:

  • Adhering to author eligibility criteria
  • Ensuring accuracy of reporting and in assigning credit for work done
  • Reaching agreement on authorship in writing prior to submission of a work for review
  • Acknowledging the contributions of others, including funding agencies
  • Declaring conflicts of interest

Resolving authorship disputes

Disputes over authorship sometimes arise. Such disputes can delay research, hinder publication and unnecessarily damage relationships between collaborators. Disputes can be avoided with appropriate communication and by obtaining agreements about authorship early in the research process.

Staff and students who are uncertain or have a concern about any aspect of authorship should talk to a Research Integrity Advisor as soon as possible. Where a dispute may arise the University’s authorship policy encourages authors to first seek to resolve the disagreement by discussion amongst the persons involved. If this fails to resolve the issue authors should follow the dispute resolution process detailed in the policy.

Key resources

4.20.02 Responsible Conduct of Research

4.20.04 Authorship

Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research

Additional resources

How to Handle Authorship Disputes (Committee on Publication Ethics)

Publication Practices & Responsible Authorship (American Psychological Association)

Roles & Responsibilities of Authors (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors)