Providing the name of a single author is no problem. Providing the name of a pair of authors might require resolution in terms of who comes first. The problem gets more difficult as the number of authors increases.
The American Psychological Association (APA) Publication Manual (2001) gives clear advice on allocating credit for authorship. It states (pp. 395—6) that:
• The sequence of names of the authors to an article must reflect the relative scientific or professional contribution of the authors, irrespective of their academic status.
• The general rule is that the name of the principal contributor should come first, with subsequent names in order of decreasing contribution.
• Mere possession of an institutional position on its own, such as Head of the Research team, does not justify authorship.
• A student should be listed as a principal author on any multi-authored article that is substantially based on the student's dissertation or thesis.
However, the APA Publication Manual refers — in the main — to social science publications. In the sciences, the number of authors on individual papers can be very large and this can cause problems (Buehring et al., 2007). One solution has been to list in more detail the contribution of each individual author to a multi-authored paper. Thus, a typical footnote might read:
Contributors: A and B conceived of and designed the study, and C wrote the required program. D, E and F analysed and interpreted the data. A and D drafted the paper and B and E critically revised it. All of the authors approved this final version.
Different medical journals, however, have different requirements for listing the contributions of authors. This means that the same person might get credited in different ways for his or her contribution to the same paper, according to which journal it is submitted to (Ilakovac et al., 2007). Some of the contributions listed by Ilakovac et al. include:
• conception and design of the study
• collection of the raw data
• statistical expertise/advice
• analysis and interpretation of the data
• drafting of the article
• critical revision of the article for important intellectual content
• administrative, technical and logistical support
• final approval of the article.
Normally, of course, these details may not matter. What matters is the contribution of the article, not who is saying it, but in these days of impact factors and citation analyses, details such as these are seen as important.
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