It is now common practice to include 'equal contributions' footnotes in papers that have multiple first or senior authors. Unfortunately, this information is not preserved by the archiving and citation processes. The omission diminishes the roles of equal but subsequently listed authors, discouraging scientists from working in collaborations and teams — the backbone of modern scientific progress.
Equal-authorship details can currently be found only in the papers themselves. These details are not available on indexing sites or in referenced citations, which are increasingly the main source of information for literature searches.
To rectify this oversight, indexers need publishers to code author-status information in a standard format. For example, journals could include an asterisk beside authors' names to indicate equal contributions for article-citation purposes. We call on all journals and indexers such as PubMed, Google Scholar and Thomson Reuters Web of Science to update their systems to reflect shared authorship.