Scholarly Communication

Scholarly Publishing: Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors According to ICMJE Guidelines

A discussion around guidelines for the assignment of authorship for scholarly works according to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.

The assignment of authorship, in addition to granting credit, has important academic and financial implications. Authorship implies responsibility and accountability for works published in a scholarly setting.

Members of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICJME) developed recommendations intended to ensure that contributors who have made substantive intellectual contributions to a paper are given credit as authors, but also that contributors credited as authors understand their role in taking responsibility and being accountable for what is published.

The ICMJE recommends that authorship be based on the following criteria:

  1. Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  3. Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  4. Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Simply put, all those designated as authors should meet all four criteria for authorship, and all who meet the four criteria should be identified as authors. 

Those who do not meet all four criteria should be acknowledged. Non-author contributions, such as the acquisition of funding, general supervision of a research group or the provision of administrative support, or writing assistance, technical editing, language editing, and proofreading, should be clearly indicated.

While the ICMJE guidelines were written with health sciences publications in mind, they can be applied to publications in other disciplines as well. For additional information about authorship guidelines, please take a look at the resources listed below: