It is recognized that almost every biomedical science publication has more than one author, and the number of authors listed on the title page of each publication has been growing over time. In the current social climate in which there is concern about equality and fairness, some scientists have wondered whether authorship designation is also being carried out in a fair and equitable manner.
Given this concern, the editorial board of The Journal of Clinical Investigation published new guidelines for submitting authors. These guidelines now require the corresponding author to explain the process by which the “first author” was assigned. The coveted first-author position is generally assigned to the researcher who contributed the most to the project. For younger scientists, this position helps them to build their reputation as researchers. However, to date, the process by which these decisions are made has not been widely discussed at journals.
Submitting to academic journals requires authors to prepare not only their manuscript and associated figures and tables, but also information about such things as ethical approval and potential conflicts of interest. Many journals already request details about each author’s contribution to a submission, so The Journal of Clinical Investigation’s requests do not significantly burden authors. Importantly, this request may lead to re-evaluations of contributions to research submitted to this and other journals and perhaps even more fairly allocated credit.
The editorial board of The Journal of Clinical Investigation understands that their new request will not be able to change the systemic biases that exist in the academic world. However, increasing awareness of these biases among scientists and fostering a discussion of how authorship credit is allocated will benefit not only young researchers, but the scientific community as a whole.
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