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Social work authorship.

A colleague of mine claims that in addition to journals that accept only well-written manuscripts about quality research, there are journals that accept badly written articles about good research, journals that accept well-written articles about bad research, and others still that accept badly written articles about bad research. In other words, getting a manuscript published does not necessarily signify a major scholarly accomplishment. Yet an individual's scholarly productivity is often summed up as a simple publication count that may influence hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions; funding opportunities; and other professional rewards. Journal quality and author order are also taken into consideration in more nuanced evaluations of scholarly productivity (Geelhoed, Phillips, Fischer, Shpungin, & Gong, 2007; Seipel, 2003). Journal quality may be assessed by impact factor, rejection rate, and circulation size by the more assiduous evaluators of curricula vitae; however, there are limitations to these metrics. For example, although social work scholars are expected to show a degree of loyalty to the social work literature (Seipel, 2003), social work journals in general have notoriously low impact factors, and circulation size is a function of topical and methodological specificity, not just quality. Citation counts, which are now easily available online, provide additional useful information for evaluating scholarly contributions and influence, but they, too, suffer from various limitations that reduce their comparability across individuals, such as size of research community in a topical area and publication data (personal communication with M. O. Howard, Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, August 26, 2012). In sum, it is difficult to gauge the quality and impact of social work scholars' contributions, even if information on publication outlet and impact is sought out. Most often it is not sought out; simplistic counts are relied on to sum up scholarly activity.

Although the only way to get published in better journals, presumably, is to do superior research and present it well, less honorable options may be used to influence publication counts and author order on manuscripts, such as using status and power to obtain authorship credit or deny it to others (Arthur et al., 2004; Geelhoed et al., 2007; Jones, 1999; Marusi, Bosnjak, & Jeroni, 2011; Street, Rogers, Israel, & Braunack-Mayer, 2010). The quest for long publication lists and sole or first authorship inject zero-sum dynamics into authorship decisions in academic settings, which are characterized by power differentials, competing professional needs, and differences of opinion about appropriate assignment of authorship credit. The socially constructed stakes of publication credits combined with the conditions in which authorship decisions are negotiated make it advisable for social work researchers to establish professionwide ethical standards for authorship assignment. Two goals of such standards are to increase the validity of publication records as indices of scholarly productivity, and thereby enhance their utility for numerous purposes, and to reduce the occurrence of unfairness and coercion in authorship decisions. Developing comprehensive standards applicable to all publishing situations and preventing all abuses of authorship policies are not realistic goals. But social work scholars may be able to reach consensus on a number of acceptable and unacceptable authorship practices and on mechanisms to promote ethical assignment of authorship. This editorial proposes authorship guidelines for social work researchers and challenges those in positions of authority to promote their use.


Encouragement of collaboration by funders and the numerous specialized skills required in large projects have increased the likelihood that multiple individuals make substantial contributions to the same project and manuscripts. The mentor and supervisor roles of faculty with graduate students also lead to multiple-authorship situations (Arthur et al., 2004; Louis, Holdsworth, Anderson, & Campbell, 2008). At the same time, being sole author and being first author are the most highly valued authorship statuses (Geelhoed et al., 2007; Seipel, 2003). Trends toward longer author lists (Howard & Walker, 1996) support the need for guidelines on authorship decisions that increase the validity of publication records as a measure of scholarly contributions.

When individuals with different opinions, competing career objectives, and statuses that range from first-year graduate students, lab technicians, and statisticians to full professors work together on projects and manuscripts, it may be inevitable that disagreements about authorship credit will emerge. Even within individuals there can be opposing pressures, for example, the potential conflict between a faculty member's perceived "need" for publications (that is, to gain tenure) and his or her role as a mentor of graduate students (Netting & Nichols-Casebolt, 1997), or what Louis et al. (2008) referred to as the "sponsorship" of young scientists. The forces affecting authorship assignment practices can lead to situations in which decisions reflect factors other than actual contributions to a manuscript.

A recent publication in Social Science and Medicine (Street et al., 2010) speaks harshly of all kinds of misrepresentation of authorship, labeling them variously "misconduct," "dubious practices," and "outright falsehoods." The authors contend that misrepresentation of authorship undermines the accountability and integrity of academic research, for example, because one or more putative authors whose names lend credibility to a study may not even be aware of how the study was conducted. And publication records that are based on questionable methods of assigning authorship threaten "the meaning and value of all track records in the academy" (Street et al., 2010, p. 1459). Clearly, the application of different rules for authorship results in publication records that are difficult to evaluate and compare. Authorship histories that look the same on paper may represent widely divergent contributions, skills, and future publishing potential.

According to one estimate, one-third of social work scholarship is published in non-social work journals (Seipel, 2003). Therefore, authorship research from a range of disciplines is potentially relevant to a discussion of social work authorship. Cross-disciplinary research suggests that experiences with authorship disagreements and perceptions of misrepresentation of authorship are common in many research settings. A conservative figure that may be most relevant to social work conies from a recent cross-disciplinary systematic review of 123 research articles on 118 studies about authorship (Marusi et al., 2011). Based on a subset of 12 survey studies published in American, British, and international journals that asked respondents about their authorship experiences, the authors found that an average of 23% of respondents reported prior authorship problems. Authorship problems were defined as personal experiences with or observation of authorship disagreements or "misuse of authorship" (Marusi et al., 2011). Other data from studies in the same systematic review suggested that anywhere from 10% to 89% of researchers have observed the practice of giving authorship to undeserving individuals or denying it to deserving individuals. Studies have suggested that giving unearned authorship credit is more prevalent than denying credit (Geelhoed et al., 2007; Louis et al., 2008).

Central to many discussions in the literature on authorship attribution is the relationship between faculty and graduate students (Apgar & Congress, 2005a; Sullivan & Ogloff, 1998). A common concern on the part of scholars who write on authorship issues is the potential for unfair treatment of graduate students in research and writing endeavors, and the need for protective guidelines for students (American Psychological Association [APA] Science Student Council, 2006; Apgar & Congress, 2005b; Arthur et al., 2004; Sullivan & Ogloff, 1998). Power differentials likely also occur among faculty, however, on the basis of tenure status, gender, age, seniority, and other factors. The role of power differentials in assigning authorship credit is illustrated in findings from a study of psychologists (Geelhoed et al., 2007). Students and untenured faculty were more likely than tenured faculty to report that power differentials adversely affected authorship credit in a study they had recently coauthored. Untenured faculty were also more likely to report that "unwarranted authorship had been granted" or that authorship credit had been influenced by % sense of loyalty or obligation" (Geelhoed et al., 2007, p. 110). Tenured faculty in the study perceived themselves as the most powerful in authorship negotiations and, unsurprisingly, were most likely to feel satisfied with the process of determining authorship credit. In contrast to the sense of power and satisfaction enjoyed by tenured faculty, a "fear of negative consequences" (Marusi et al., 2011) was one of the reasons doctoral psychology students did not seek help when they disagreed with authorship decisions on papers to which they contributed. Similarly, in an earlier focus group study, social work doctoral students reported feeling little control of authorship decisions (Netting & Nichols-Casebolt, 1997).


In the extensive review of research on authorship by Marusi et al. (2011), only three of 123 articles on 118 studies were completed by social workers (that is, Apgar & Congress, 2005a, 2005b, Seipel, 2003). Findings of the three studies and language in the NASW (2008) Code of Ethics and the Council on Social Work Education's (CSWE) National Statement on Research Integrity in Social Work (CSWE, 2006) indicate that social work is not immune from authorship credit problems. First, like professional organizations for education, counseling, psychology, sociology, health sciences, medicine, and others, social work organizations present authorship guidelines in their policy documents:

Social workers should take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only for work they have actually performed and to which they have contributed. Social workers should honestly acknowledge the work of and contributions made by others. (NASW, 2008, p. 24)

Publication of research findings should include appropriate attribution of authorship. Authors and coauthors should be determined on the basis of the type and amount of work completed. (CSWE, 2006, bullet 6)

Although statements about authorship in the two social work documents are more brief and vague than corresponding statements of most professional organizations, they reflect recognition of authorship as a key ethical issue for the profession.

Second, a relatively recent study of social work researchers indicated a lack of consensus about how to assign authorship credit in certain situations (Apgar & Congress, 2005a). Most (94.6%) respondents agreed that helping another researcher with a literature review merited second author status (not first, and not merely an acknowledgment). Respondents largely agreed (80.9%) that if a senior faculty member provided the idea for an article and a junior faculty member did a majority of the work on the article, first authorship should go to the junior faculty member. Similarly, a substantial majority (85.4%) of social work researchers agreed that if a junior faculty member wrote an article using data from a senior faculty member's funded research project, the junior faculty member should be first author. Respondents, however, were about evenly split regarding who should be first author when a tenured and untenured faculty member worked together and contributed equal amounts of work. Different opinions were also apparent about who should be first author when one faculty member writes the literature review and manages the data and analysis for a paper and another does all other manuscript writing and preparation tasks. About half (50.3%) of respondents believed the author doing the bulk of the manuscript writing should be listed first; the other half were split between thinking the author who managed and analyzed the data should be first (17.2%) and thinking authorship order should be determined by a coin toss (32.5%). In four of five scenarios, therefore, 15% to 50% of social work researchers had different opinions from the rest about authorship order.

A third reason social work researchers should be concerned about authorship issues is the existence of a sizable minority of social workers ([greater than or equal to] 15%) whose views about authorship differ substantially from those held by most social workers and researchers from other social and medical sciences. Apgar and Congress (2005b) presented findings about social work researchers' beliefs about a number of ethical issues, including authorship assignment. Their 2005 survey of members of the Society for Social Work and Research found that 39% of respondents either believed it was ethical (7.8%) or were not sure if it was ethical or unethical (31.2%) to "write [an] article or develop [a] study using a student's idea," but not include the student as a coauthor/coinvestigator (Apgar & Congress, 2005b, p. 69). Almost 15% of respondents in the same study believed it was ethical (4.4%) or were undecided about the ethics (10.2%) of claiming they were first author on an "article primarily written by a student" (p. 69). These findings suggest that lack of knowledge of authorship norms may be more of a problem in social work than deliberate violation of norms, but the latter undoubtedly occurs.

Study findings presented previously may seriously underestimate the extent to which authorship credit is misrepresented. First, social desirability bias may reduce the reporting of deliberately unethical practices. Second, qualitative research suggests there are discrepancies between beliefs about ethical authorship practices and actual practices, such that misrepresentation of authorship occurs for various reasons even when researchers know it is unethical (Apgar & Congress, 2005b; Louis et al., 2008; Netting & Nichols-Casebolt, 1997). And third, it is likely that researchers with outlying opinions about authorship are less likely to respond to mail-in surveys about ethics.


Ongoing concern about who is listed as an author on research articles is reflected in professional codes of ethics, policies of journal editors and publishers, and publications on authorship issues. Many professional organizations provide standards for authorship in their codes of ethics, and research indicates the guidelines may increase the satisfaction of coauthors about both the process of negotiating authorship and the final decisions made (Geelhoed et al., 2007). The most common authorship issues addressed in professional codes of ethics and policy statements relate to what constitutes authorship and in which order authors should be listed. The American Sociological Association (ASA, 1997); American Psychological Association (APA, 2002); American Counseling Association (ACA, 2005); Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences (ACJS, 2000); American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT, 2012); American Educational Research Association (AERA, 2011); NASW (2008); Blackwell Publishing (Graf et al., 2007); the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICJME, 2009), which represents hundreds of medical journals; the 7,000-member international and interdisciplinary Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE; Albert & Wager, 2003); and the World Conference on Research Integrity (Wager & Kleinert, 2011) have agreed that only individuals who have contributed to the research and publication process should be listed as authors. Some also specify that no one who has contributed should be omitted. Statements related to who should and should not be listed as an author include, for example,

Education researchers ensure that all who have made a substantive contribution to an intellectual product are listed as authors. (AERA, 2011, p. 153)

Sociologists take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only for work they have actually performed or to which they have contributed. (ASA, 1997, bullet 15.a)

Acquisition of funding, collection of data or general supervision of the research group alone does not constitute authorship. (ICJME, 2009, third guideline)

The representative statements about who is appropriately regarded as an author reveal considerable consensus among scholars in a variety of the disciplines with which social workers share theory, empirical research, and research funding: The list of authors on a manuscript should accurately reflect the individuals who contributed to the manuscript. Giving authorship credit for what the literature refers to as "guest," "gift," and "ghost" authorship (Street et al., 2010; Wager & Kleinert, 2011) is considered unacceptable. Guest authorship was defined by Wager and Kleinert (2011) as authorship granted to an individual who does not meet ethical standards for authorship, because of his or her "seniority, reputation or supposed influence." Guest authorship may be granted when authors believe having a senior researcher on a manuscript enhances their own prestige or the chances of a manuscript being accepted for publication. Gift authorship refers to authorship granted as a favor or in return for payment (Wager & Kleinert, 2011), which might include access to data. Ghost authorship refers to voluntary or involuntary omission from the author list of an individual who made a substantial contribution to a paper (Wager & Kleinert, 2011).

Statements related to authorship order occur in many professional policy documents. Authorship order matters because it affects the weight reviewers give either systematically or informally to publications on an individual's curriculum vitae (Seipel, 2003). Sole or first authorships are considered most "weighty" in social work (Netting & Nichols-Casebolt, 1997; Seipel, 2003), which may influence researchers' decisions regarding inclusion of coauthors and their ordering in the author list. Representative statements in professional codes of ethics about the order of authors include the following:

Claims and ordering of authorship and acknowledgments should accurately reflect the contributions of all participants in the research and writing process, including students, except in those cases where such ordering or acknowledgment is determined by an official protocol. (ACJS, 2000, bullet C1)

Principal authorship and other publication credits accurately reflect the relative scientific or professional contributions of the individuals involved, regardless of their relative status. (APA, 2002, p. 1070)

The principal contributor is listed first and minor technical or professional contributions are acknowledged in notes or introductory statements. (ACA, 2005, p. 18)

A student is usually listed as principal author on any multiple-authored publication that substantially derives from the student's dissertation or thesis. (ASA, 1997, p. 154)

Although guidelines about authorship order appear less frequently than guidelines about who is appropriately regarded as an author, common themes are represented in the four quotes above. First, authorship order should reflect the relative importance and magnitude of contributions coauthors make to publications. Second, graduate students should be first authors on papers derived from their dissertations or master's theses. Third, contributions that do not meet authorship criteria can be appropriately recognized through other mechanisms.

A number of additional recommendations regarding authorship are present in the literature. Point systems for assigning authorship order are discussed (Apgar & Congress, 2005a; Geelhoed et al., 2007;Jones, 1999), but they may be viewed as onerous (Jones, 1999) or unhelpful (Apgar & Congress, 2005a) by researchers. Practices to be avoided include the following: listing authors who have not agreed to be listed, failing to get approval of all authors before submitting the final draft of a manuscript for review, and failing to request approval for acknowledgment statements from people being acknowledged before submitting a manuscript. More than one article on authorship mentioned that researchers should give students or junior faculty the advantage in assigning authorship credit when coauthor contributions are equal (Apgar & Congress, 2005a; Arthur et al., 2004; Sullivan & Ogloff, 1998), but not when the senior coauthor has clearly made a greater contribution.


One problem of the statements about authorship qualifications is the lack of definition of key terms, such as "contribution," "work," and "research." First, it is often not clear if the terms refer to a larger project or a specific manuscript. If an investigator associated with a funded research project interprets "contribution to the research" as meaning the larger study in the course of which data used for the current manuscript were collected, she or he might expect to be an author on the current manuscript independently of providing help with the manuscript. If "contribution to the research" refers to generating the hypotheses, design, and analysis plan of the specific study to be reported on in the manuscript, the authorship implications are quite different.

Second, key terms of authorship policies usually do not specify the specific tasks that constitute authorship. The literature on authorship, however, provides guidance in this area. There appears to be general consensus across disciplines that conceptualization of the research and writing the text of the manuscript are the two most important contributions to a publication (Geelhoed et al., 2007; Marusi et al., 2011). Among social work scholars, writing the manuscript was considered the contribution that should receive the most points when weighing authorship order, and analyzing the data was second (Apgar & Congress, 2005a). Other tasks that were ranked highly across disciplines included choosing and implementing or providing advice about statistical analyses (Marusi et al., 2011), "setting up the procedure and collecting the data" (Geelhoed et al., 2007), and developing the measurement tool (Jones, 1999).

A highly influential set of authorship guidelines, called the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts (URM), was developed by the ICJME (2009). It has since been endorsed by hundreds of medical journals and COPE (COPE, n.d.-a). The URM lists five criteria for authorship. The first is of most relevance here. (The second addresses manuscripts emerging from large multicenter projects, and the rest reinforce elements of the first.) Compared with the criteria provided in professional codes of ethics, the first URM guideline is relatively specific about the nature and combination of contributions an individual should make to earn authorship.

Authorship credit should be based on 1) substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; 2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and 3) final approval of the version to be published. Authors should meet conditions 1, 2, and 3. (ICJME, 2009, first bullet)

The ICMJE guideline adds clarity to the definition of "work" and "contribution." Building on general interdisciplinary agreement about the two most highly rated elements of authorship, the standard indicates that authors should be involved in both processes.

In spite of its superiority over other codes, the first ICMJE guideline still fails to make a distinction between a funded research "study" (or project) and the specific "study" reported in a manuscript being developed for submission to a journal. Sometimes the two are the same or virtually the same; this situation may be more common in

experimental psychology and the "hard sciences." In social work, the funded study and the study reported in a manuscript may be equivalent, for example, when funding was obtained to conduct research that focuses solely on the effects of a specific intervention or the development of a measurement tool. The primary manuscripts that emerge from such studies answer the same relatively narrow research questions included in the proposal for the study. The authors of the proposal, in this case, conceived of the research questions and analyses to be conducted and reported in manuscripts before funding was obtained. They likely devised the data collection plan and oversaw the collection of data. Therefore, even before a specific manuscript was planned, they have met the first part of the first ICMJE guideline (at least when questions and analysis plans do not change significantly in the course of the research). If and when they contribute substantially to the writing of the manuscript reporting findings of the funded study, they qualify as authors.

In much social work research, however, the funded research "study" (or project) and the specific "study" reported in a manuscript are not the same. Often, the collection of cross-sectional or longitudinal data about an extensive array of personal characteristics and experiences and environmental factors occurs in the course of an intervention study or measurement study. Or, a proposed study may aim primarily to collect comprehensive cross-sectional or longitudinal data on a large, representative sample to promote basic understanding of a broad range of phenomena. Alternatively, researchers may obtain access to a secondary data set to investigate a broad family of research questions. In each of the scenarios, only a small subset of potential specific, theory-based hypotheses are likely to be prespecified. The number of "studies"--that is, specific analyses of human development, behavior, cognition, health, and emotion that can be conducted using the data--is virtually infinite. In this scenario, the research questions and proposed analyses are distinct from those articulated in the original research project. Authorship credit in this scenario is based on defining and carrying out research tasks for and writing the current manuscript, not tasks or hypotheses specified in the original proposal. Apgar and Congress's (2005a) finding that writing the manuscript is the most important authorship task also supports the conclusion that social workers generally think of research contributions as contributions to the study described in the current manuscript, not the larger study from which data were generated.

The literature on authorship assignment does not appear to include voices in support of the practice of assigning authorship credit based solely on the acquisition of funding, supervision of a large research project, or generation of ideas for manuscripts. Two qualitative studies examined the reasons why gift, guest, and ghost authorship occurred (for example, a sense of obligation, maintaining useful relationships), but respondents agreed that the behaviors were undesirable (Geelhoed et al., 2007; Louis et al., 2008).


Research over the past decade in social work and related disciplines suggests the need for better articulation and reinforcement of consistent authorship criteria. Reasons for inconsistent or indefensible authorship assignment practices in social work may include lack of knowledge of ethical norms, reasonable differences of opinions, and deliberate disregard of norms, perhaps in that order of prevalence (Apgar & Congress, 2005a, 2005b). The consequences range from unpleasant memories of graduate school and loss of respect for colleagues to publication records that inaccurately reflect researchers' efforts and qualifications. Current practices likely reflect the professional socialization experiences of researchers. Promoting professionwide standards now might improve current authorship practices and the experiences and practices of the next generation of social work researchers.

Drawing on existing authorship standards and research, my own positive socialization experiences as a doctoral student, and the extensive consensus across disciplines about authorship credit, I propose a set of criteria for authorship assignment (see Table 1). In addition, because "good publication practices do not develop by chance, and will become established only if they are actively promoted" (Graf et al., 2007, Background section), I challenge colleagues in different positions of influence to promote use of the guidelines and transparency in authorship practices. The ultimate goals are to prevent unfairness and promote the validity of publication records and the uses made of those records in academia (for example, decisions about hiring, promotion, funding, awards).

The guidelines are relatively comprehensive, specific, and relevant to social work situations. They may preempt many authorship conflicts but cannot, of course, prevent all situations in which potential coauthors perceive or enact unfair authorship practices. Some differences of opinions about the importance of contributions are inevitable. Research indicates, for example, that students tend to rate the types of contributions they typically are asked to make as more important than other contributions (Marusi et al., 2011), and faculty are likely to feel the same about their own contributions. In addition, limitations of the guidelines include the following: They do not provide answers about how to weight contributions in terms of quality, they do not attempt to specify rules for ranking different contributions across and within each of the two major categories, they cannot resolve or preempt situations in which coauthors do not act in good faith, and they cannot anticipate every authorship scenario. Clearly, the relative and absolute magnitude and quality of author contributions on publications can never be fully represented on publication lists. The current guidelines may, however, narrow the current range of meanings of authorship and authorship position and reduce the practice of omitting deserving individuals from author lists. To the extent that they achieve these ends, they will promote greater validity of publication lists and the decisions based on them.

It is possible that principal investigators (PIs), researchers who possess large data sets, and others who supervise individuals of various ranks on research projects may have concerns that authorship guidelines will limit their authority over publications. It should be noted that the guidelines do not threaten the control such individuals have over access to data for use in publications. Although the consensus across disciplines is that having or sharing data in and of itself does not constitute authorship, PIs still have the right to choose who uses their data. As long as PIs are willing to meet authorship criteria and appropriately recognize contributions of other authors, they can ensure that they themselves are authors, even first authors, on all publications derived from their data sets until and unless funders demand that data be made public.


The proffered guidelines could serve as the first draft in a collaborative drafting of guidelines that social work journal editors and deans agree on, or as a starting point for articulating journal-, school-, and individual-level practices. If social work researchers as a group are not able to agree on one set of guidelines or professionwide enforcement of the guidelines, the task of articulating and promoting tailored guidelines in smaller domains should be taken on by journal editors, deans of schools of social work, doctoral program chairs, and individual faculty members.

Although greater detail and relevance in social work authorship guidelines might reduce disparities in researchers' opinions and practices related to authorship to a degree, greater reductions in disparities are likely only if guidelines are actively promoted in the multiple arenas salient to authorship practices. In the next section, I present examples of how different actors with influence among social work researchers can promote more fair and consistent authorship practices.

Social Work Journal Editors

Like many journals, such as Nature ("Authorship Policies," 2009), social work journals can promote adherence to an approved set of authorship guidelines by requiring all submitting authors to briefly describe their contributions to a manuscript. Manuscripts with guest, gift, and ghost authors would not be accepted for review. COPE (n.d.-b), the large interdisciplinary publication ethics committee, provides online decision-making flowcharts for journal editors to use when they suspect misconduct related to authorship on submitted or published articles. Their resources also include a list of potential signs of authorship misconduct. Editors can publicize the authorship guidelines they enforce in their journals and in their online "information for authors" statements.

Social Work Deans

Social work deans can endorse and make known school-level authorship guidelines and demonstrate willingness to hold faculty and students accountable to those guidelines, regardless of rank. Deans can create expectations for healthy authorship practices, such as being transparent about personal practices and having early and ongoing discussions of authorship among coauthors. Deans can develop tenure and promotion guidelines that promote inclusion of graduate students in publications, for example, by weighing faculty publications in which graduate students are first authors highly and by "counting" opportunities provided to students to be coauthors highly in tenure and promotion decisions. Deans can also create standing or ad hoc committees to help resolve authorship disputes among their faculty and students. Because doctoral program chairs may take responsibility for making doctoral students aware of authorship guidelines, deans might take responsibility for ensuring that master's-level students are aware of authorship expectations and resources for resolving authorship disputes.

Doctoral Program Chairs

Doctoral program chairs can develop mechanisms for educating incoming doctoral students about school-level authorship expectations and criteria, such as including information about authorship in doctoral program manuals and orientation sessions. An example of written guidelines for students is A Graduate Student's Guide to Determining Authorship Credit and Authorship Order (APA Science Student Council, 2006). Program chairs can create expectations for healthy authorship practices, such as being transparent about personal practices and having early and ongoing discussions of authorship among coauthors. They can be a first resource for students and faculty who perceive violations of authorship policies. Doctoral program chairs should request statements from faculty who work with doctoral students about their personal authorship practices. The statements should be shared with doctoral students to aid them in decisions about whom to work with on research assistantships, research practicums, and independent studies.

Individual Faculty

Individual faculty should be transparent with students and colleagues about their authorship practices. Because their practices can have a lasting impact on advisees (Netting & Nichols-Casebolt, 1997), faculty should model and teach healthy authorship practices such as transparency, and early and ongoing discussion of authorship when manuscripts are being prepared collaboratively. Faculty and students should seek help or feedback from others when they perceive violations of agreed-on authorship guidelines. Faculty can voluntarily include author contribution statements in submissions to journals.


Social work researchers could take a leadership stand on authorship practices. It is consistent with the profession's commitment to ethics and social justice. There is a high degree of consensus within and outside of social work about what is fair. Are we willing to build on current fragmentary efforts to create and achieve a consensus? Or is discretion in authorship decisions held by researchers with the most power too large a privilege to challenge?

doi: 10.1093/swr/svt007


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Wager, E., & Kleinert, S. (2011). Responsible research publication: International standards for authors. A position statement developed at the 2nd World Conference on Research Integrity, Singapore, July 22-24, 2010. In T. Mayer & N. Steneck (Eds.), Promoting research integrity in a global environment (pp. 309-316). Singapore: Imperial College Press/World Scientific.

Natasha K. Bowen, PhD, is associate professor, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 325 Pittsboro Road, Chapel Hill, NC 27599; e-mail: nbowen @email. unc. edu.

Advance Access Publication March 3, 2013


The NASW Press expects authors to adhere to ethical standards for scholarship as articulated in the NASW Code of Ethics and Writing for the NASW Press: Information for Authors. These standards include actions such as

* taking responsibility and credit only for work they have actually performed

* honestly acknowledging the work of others

* submitting only original work to journals

* fully documenting their own and others' related work.

If possible breaches of ethical standards have been identified at the review or publication process, the NASW Press may notify the author and bring the ethics issue to the attention of the appropriate professional body or other authority. Peer review confidentiality will not apply where there is evidence of plagiarism.

As reviewed and revised by NASW National Committee on Inquiry (NCOI), May 30, 1997

Approved by NASW Board of Directors, September 1997

TABLE 1: Proposed Authorship Guidelines for Social Work Researchers

A. Criteria for Inclusion as an Author. To be listed as an author on a
manuscript, an individual should meet, at a minimum, criteria Ala OR
Alb, AND either A2a OR A2b OR A2c OR A2d OR A2e.

A1. Contribute to ideas and text that appear in the final version of
the manuscript:

(A1a) Write one or more sections of the manuscript with adequate skill
such that the majority of main ideas and text are retained
in the final version, even if the section is edited by others. A
section of a manuscript is the text under a heading or subheading,
such as, "Background and Significance," "The Problem," "Data
Analysis," "Implications," "Implications for Practice" (or in
paragraphs related to those headings, if headings are not used), OR
(Alb) Revise one or more sections of the manuscript such that the
majority of the original author's main ideas and text in that
section have been replaced with new intellectual content, AND

A2. Contribute to the conceptualization and conduct of the specific
research presented in the manuscript:

(A2a) Generate or help generate one or more of the research questions
or hypotheses addressed in the manuscript, or draw
conclusions from a review of the literature that influence the study's
questions or hypotheses. If the manuscript aims to answer
specific research questions or hypotheses articulated previously (for
example, in the proposal for a funded research project), then
the authors of the proposal fulfill this criterion. If the paper does
not answer research questions or test hypotheses, the individual
plans or helps plan the content of the manuscript, OR

(A2b) Specify or help specify the data analysis plan and variables
to be analyzed, including by presenting knowledge gained from
a review of the literature, for example. Generating the analysis plan
may be done with a statistical or qualitative methods
consultant, in which case the consultant may also qualify as an
author, if given the opportunity to help write the manuscript, OR

(A2c) Conduct or help conduct the data analysis. Data analysis may be
performed with the help of a statistical or qualitative
methods consultant, in which case the consultant may also qualify as
an author, if given the opportunity to help write the
manuscript, OR

(A2d) Interpret or help interpret the results of the statistical
analysis in relation to pre-specified hypotheses and research
questions. Interpretation of statistical results may be done with the
help of a statistical consultant, in which case the consultant may also
qualify as an author, if given the opportunity to help write the
manuscript, OR

(A2e) Interpret or help interpret implications of the study's findings
for theory, policy, practice, or future research, including help
relating findings to the literature review.

B. Contributions That Do Not Meet Criteria for Authorship

B1. On their own or in combination with elements of only A1 or only
A2, completing the following tasks does not merit
authorship: identifying documents for a literature review, summarizing
documents but not synthesizing or applying literature
review content to the current study, obtaining research funding,
paying for student or faculty work on a study, designing the
measurement tool(s) used to collect data, collecting data, paying for
or supervising data collection, otherwise obtaining or
providing data, or approving of a manuscript written by others
before submission.

B2. Individuals who do not meet authorship criteria but who contribute
support, opportunities, or technical expertise that make the
studies reported in manuscripts possible and publishable should be
acknowledged or referenced in manuscripts. Examples include
funders, principal investigators and project managers of larger
studies, and people who provide or manage data, supervise or
implement the interventions being tested, identify documents
for the literature review, or provide editing support.

C. Criteria for Determining Authorship Order

C1. Authorship order should be assigned on the basis of consideration
of the combined relative contributions of coauthors in areas
A1 and A2.

(C1a) Relative contributions to writing may be measured in terms of
the amounts of text in the final version to be submitted
written by each coauthor, with equal weight given to all sections.

(C1b) Relative contributions to conceptualization and
implementation of the study reported in the manuscript may be measured
in terms of the number of areas in which contributions were made,
time spent on those contributions, and uniqueness of the expertise
used in the contributions.

(C1c) By accepting first authorship, researchers usually also agree to
take on the tasks associated with being the corresponding

(C1d) When some or all authors agree that their contributions have
been equivalent, alphabetical ordering or use of a coin toss
can be used and should be noted in the manuscript.

D. Special Considerations for Authorship on Publications from Theses
and Dissertations

D1. Criteria for Inclusion as an Author on Publications from Theses and

(D1a) Students should be authors on publications derived from their
theses and dissertations.

(D1b) Chairing or serving on a doctoral committee does not
predetermine authorship status on publications from a student's
work unless the faculty member (a) made contributions beyond what is
expected of a chair or committee member and (b) meets
the authorship criteria above in section A (Adapted from the Code of
Ethics of the AAMFT, 2012).

(D1c) When a graduate student's work answers major pre-specified
research questions in a faculty member's funded study,
and the faculty member helps write the manuscript for publication, the
faculty member should be an author.

(D1d) Committee members who contributed substantially to a student's
thesis or dissertation but not to subsequent publications
should be acknowledged in relevant publications.

D2. Criteria for Determining Authorship Order on Publications from
Theses and Dissertations

(D2a) Unless a faculty member meets the authorship criteria above AND
makes a larger contribution to the final manuscript
than the student, the student should be first author on publications
based on his or her dissertation or thesis.

E. Responsibilities of Coauthors to Each Other and to Contributors

E1. Authorship status and order and acknowledgment plans should be
discussed and approved before work on the manuscript
begins. This rule applies to dissertation work as well as and journal
articles. Criteria for changes in prespecified plans should be
made clear.

E2. All authors must be given the opportunity and adequate time to
review and approve manuscript submissions (including revised
manuscripts) before they are submitted. Acknowledgment statements
must be approved by those who are acknowledged.

E3. Individuals who make significant contributions to a manuscript in
the writing (A1) or research (A2) areas should be offered the
opportunity to become authors by contributing in the other area if
they are so interested.
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Author:Bowen, Natasha K.
Publication:Social Work Research
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2013
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