Footnotes listing individual author contributions to research papers help to offset ambiguities in formal authorship, but are easily overlooked. Until due credit can be fairly allocated by artificial-intelligence algorithms (see G. L. Kiser Nature 561, 435; 2018), I propose confining authorship to those who wrote the paper. People assessing credit for all other functions would then be forced to consult the detailed contributions list.
This ‘authorship for authors’ scheme would promote scientists’ writing skills. A journal article is a short story: it needs creativity, clarity, structure and pace. Yet scientists receive little training in narrative and tend to write poorly. This impairs progress because readers are forced to struggle with tedious or confusing text. Let’s help the scientific literature live up to its name.
Nature 562, 494 (2018)