West Chester University

Gautam Pillay, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President
628 S. High Street
Filano Hall, Room 205
Fax: 610-436-2689

Guidelines For Authorship

The importance of publication has led to the current convention that the first person to publish a view or finding, not necessarily the first to discover it, tends to get most of the credit for the work. Because of this, it is essential that credit for work performed be appropriately allocated. In the standard publication, credit is explicitly acknowledged in a number of locations: in the list of authors, in the acknowledgments of contributions by others, and in the list of references or citations. Conflicts over proper attribution of credit can arise in any of these places.


It is expected that members of the University community consider individuals for inclusion as authors on work submitted for publication if they have contributed substantially to the work. Special care must be taken to clarify authorship with individuals who are just starting their careers such as students, post-doctoral fellows and trainees.

Several considerations must be weighed in determining the proper division of credit between a student or staff (e.g., research assistant) and a faculty member. A range of practices is acceptable across the various disciplines. If a faculty member has defined and put a project into motion and a student is invited to join in, major credit may go to the faculty member, even if a critical discovery is made when the faculty member is not present. By the same token, when a student or staff member is making an intellectual contribution to the project, that contribution deserves to be recognized.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, 1988, has commented as follows on authorship and acknowledgments and is adopted as WCU policy:

All persons designated as authors should qualify for authorship. Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for the content.

Authorship credit should be based only on substantial contributions to a) conception and design, or analysis and interpretation of data; b) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND on c) final approval of the version to be published. Conditions a), b) and c) must all be met. Participation solely in the acquisition of funding or the collection of data does not justify authorship. General supervision of a group also is not sufficient for authorship. Any part of an article critical to its main conclusions must be the responsibility of at least one author.

Principles of Primary Authorship

(From: Houk, VN and Thacker, S.B. (1990). The Responsibilities of Authorship. In: Ethics and Policy in Scientific Publication. Council of Biology Editors, Bethesda, MD).

The following criteria merit consideration in selection of the primary author. Outstanding Contributions. The primary author has shown continued interest--that is, made positive, creative, and reliable contributions, has demonstrated leadership during the study, and is the person who 'made it happen'.

Major Intellectual Input

Throughout the study, the primary author has generated ideas on the study design and modifications, on ensuring appropriate and eligible specimens, on productively conducting the study, on solving measurement problems, on analyzing and interpreting data in a particular way, and on preparing reports.

Active Participation in the Work. The primary author did the most work, made the study succeed, provided intellectual leadership, and tabulated and interpreted the data.

Key Scientific Leadership. The primary author provided overall scientific guidance and direction.

Originality of Contribution. The primary author contributed an original technique or method that proved to be a highly important basis of the paper.

Major Feature of Manuscript. In most scientific papers, one feature is of major importance: This author thought of that feature and actively developed it.

Subject Matter. The primary author participated actively by contributing positive ideas and doing productive 'hands on' work.

Primary authors should be chosen mainly through an assessment of their contributions to the conception, planning, and execution of the study.

Recommendations - In order to avoid problematic situations, the following actions are strongly recommended:

  • If there is any potential for a publication to result from work in a classroom, during an individual study, or during any research/scholarly interaction between a faculty member and a student or staff member, the conditions for authorship should be clarified BEFORE the work begins.
  • If a dispute over authorship arises at the time of submission of publication, this dispute should be resolved prior to actual submission. If the disputants cannot resolve the authorship issue, The Associate Vice President will convene an ad hoc committee to hear both sides and mediate the dispute.


Acknowledgments should be given to those who have made a direct contribution to a publication, for example, funding, space, advice, etc.

References or Citations

Citations in footnotes or bibliographies serve many purposes. They acknowledge the work of others in the field, direct the reader toward additional sources of information, acknowledge conflicts with the current paper, and provide support for the ideas expressed in the paper. More broadly, citations place a paper within the context of the field, relating the paper to the present state of knowledge. It is expected that authors will make every effort to cite thoroughly and appropriately the contribution of others in the field of study.


Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine), 1995. On Being a Scientist: Responsible Conduct in Research. National Academy Press, Washington, DC.

Council of Biology Editors, 1990. Ethics and Policy in Scientific Publication. Council of Biology Editors, Bethesda, MD.

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, 1988. Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals. Annals of Internal Medicine;108:258-65.