In the academic world, authorship and publication are crucial measures used to determine the impact that researchers have on their discipline or field. Being an author on a manuscript typically denotes that the individuals listed should receive credit for the labor undertaken and for contributions to the field and to the public that may be generated from the work.
It follows that a willingness to be listed as an author entails that the researcher has a responsibility for authenticity of the work. Authors have an obligation to present their work in an accurate, honest, and sincere fashion. Prospective authors should be aware of the specific policies, including those relating to data integrity, used by the particular journal to which they have submitted their work. For example, while submitting a manuscript to a journal, financial interests relating to the research might need to be disclosed.
Among the challenges emerging from authorship is that multiple researchers may contribute to a project. This situation can raise several ethical issues. For instance, it can be difficult to determine which names, among those involved in the research, should be listed on a published manuscript and the order in which those names should be listed. In general, each researcher must make a “significant intellectual contribution” or a “significant scientific contribution” to a project before being listed as an author. Ideally, authorship issues can be addressed in a fair manner if clear and candid discussions occur before a research project is undertaken and while it is ongoing.
As a researcher, one needs to be careful to examine common practices that occur with regard to authorship and consider whether they are legitimate. As a general rule, for example, researchers should avoid breaking up their work into different publications unless there are compelling reasons to do so. This particular issue is typically mentioned in the authorship guidelines of many professional journals. Yet there may be issues pertaining to authorship that the journals and codes of ethics do not directly address. This may require that researchers seek other sources of guidance, such as discussing the matter with a trusted colleague, in order to determine what constitutes an appropriate practice.