CORRESPONDENCE

Swap outdated authorship listings for contributorship credit

MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.
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MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

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University College London, UK.

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The identification of thousands of authors who publish more than 72 papers a year challenges the concept of authorship (J. P. A. Ioannidis et al. Nature 561, 167–169; 2018). Although two of us (G.D.S. and M.K.) fall into this hyperprolific category, we agree.

We suggest that moving from an authorship to a contributorship model (M. Munafò and G. Davey Smith Nature 553, 399–401; 2018) would better reflect the many and varied contributions to large, complex, long-term and management-intensive projects in modern science. Like the credits that roll at the end of a film, the role of each of the many people who contributed would then be recognized (M. K. McNutt et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA http://doi.org/gc8dnb; 2018). Authors can act as equivalents of film director, script supervisor, second assistant camera, casting director, lead, extra, production accountant or gaffer. As contributors to a research manuscript, they might be credited as, say, data generators, hypothesis constructors, analysts, literature reviewers or evidence-synthesizers.

Today’s large teams of physicists and biomedical consortia famously produce high-quality results. The collaborative and multi-disciplinary nature of these huge groups means that their authorship lists are very long. In our view, outdated authorship conventions for such team efforts should be consigned to the past: team science and contributorship are the future.

Nature 561, 464 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-06815-1

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