How-Tos

Dispute Resolution in Authorship

December 17, 2009

Typically, authors should first attempt to resolve disputes within the group. For instances when you are a subordinate or a student, resolving authorship disputes can be particularly difficult. When possible, discuss the issue with a supervisor, laboratory chief, advisor, or mentor. Try to resolve the issue within the research group. If there is a persistent disagreement regarding authorship, it may help to discuss the issue with a senior colleague outside of the research group. If that is not effective, seek assistance and/or mediation from the division or department chair. In cases that cannot be resolved, the lead author, in consultation with the department chair and/or Dean, will have the final authority to resolve the dispute. Resolution of authorship disputes that do not represent a violation of the authorship policy must be resolved at the department level.

Disputes frequently arise over who should or should not be listed as an author and the order in which authors should be listed on the manuscript. Guidelines for these common areas of dispute are below:

Inappropriate Application of Authorship Criteria

The decision as to whom should be listed as an author can often become a source of conflict. Washington University’s Policy for Authorship on Scientific and Scholarly Publications provides criteria that an individual should meet in order to be listed as an author.

Failure to adhere to this criteria when granting authorship, for example: unequal application of authorship criteria, granting of authorship to undeserving individuals, and/or omitting individuals who deserve authorship, are serious concerns and may be considered research misconduct under Washington University’s Research Integrity Policy.

Authorship Order

Authors should attempt to resolve disputes regarding author order among themselves. If matter fails to be resolved in this manner, Washington University’s Policy for Authorship on Scientific and Scholarly Publications suggests that the authors request mediation from the chair or head of the department(s) involved. If unsuccessful, mediation may be addressed by the Dean. In cases that cannot be resolved, the lead author, in consultation with the chair and/or Dean, will have the final authority to determine author order. Complaints regarding authorship order do not constitute research misconduct.

Acknowledgements

All individuals that have contributed significantly to the work, but do not meet the criteria for authorship, should be recognized in the acknowledgements section. This typically includes those who provide:

  • Financial support
  • Technical skill
  • Writing or editorial assistance
  • Supervision of the research
  • Statistical advice
  • Data collection
  • Coordination of data collection