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Summary: author order

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  • Summary: author order

    Dear List,

    It was interesting to read the large number of responses concerning the issue of which order to write authors in in scientific publications. The topic was extended by a number of repliers to the more general issue of whom qualifies for inclusion as an author, which seems to be an even greater and perhaps more worrying source of confusion. For this aspect three repliers provided published guidelines:

    Arnel Aguinaldo sent a site of the Authorship Task Force for the Council of Science Editors:

    Michael Vannier sent a site of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) describing Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals:

    Both these sites were extremely interesting describing rigid prerequisites for authorship. However, on the topic of author order both state that "The order of authorship should be a joint decision of the co-authors", which does not provide a consensus regarding where a project supervisor should be positioned: second or last. A similar guideline for authorship was provided by Dieter Rosenbaum (Deutsches Ă„rzteblatt, 90(21); B1121-B1123, 1993 [German]).

    The general response to the author order issue was that most groups follow the procedure of having the senior supervisor (if she/he qualifies for authorship acording to ICMJE) listed last. This appears true in Europe and Australia. Replies from North America were less unanimous with a division between senior authors positioned second and last.

    Robert U. Newton wrote specifically that a move from Australia to the USA resulted in confusion with academics questioning why he was placed last on so many publications with the implication that he had little input into his students' projects.

    Gerjan Ettema stated that it is "a general consensus, but not a rule" that the supervisor is placed last. This would be great (I don't think an official rule is necessary) but unfortunately it appears that international differences do exist and that confusion about author contributions can thus arise.

    Thank you again to all that responded.


    Toni Arndt
    Biomechanics Laboratory
    Karolinska Institute
    Dept. Orthopaedic Surgery K54
    Huddinge University Hospital
    14186 Huddinge

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