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Author Information

Authors can refer to the guideline by Harvard University in 1999 to find details on authorship


  • 1. Everyone who is listed as an author should have made a substantial, direct, intellectual contribution to the work. For example (in the case of a research report) they should have contributed to the conception, design, analysis and/or interpretation of data. Honorary or guest authorship is not acceptable. Acquisition of funding and provision of technical services, patients, or materials, while they may be essential to the work, are not in themselves sufficient contributions to justify authorship.
  • 2. Everyone who has made substantial intellectual contributions to the work should be an author. Everyone who has made other substantial contributions should be acknowledged.
  • 3. When research is done by teams whose members are highly specialized, individuals' contributions and responsibility may be limited to specific aspects of the work.
  • 4. All authors should participate in writing the manuscript by reviewing drafts and approving the final version.
  • 5. One author should take primary responsibility for the work as a whole even if he or she does not have an in-depth understanding of every part of the work.
  • 6. This primary author should assure that all authors meet basic standards for authorship and should prepare a concise, written description of their contributions to the work, which has been approved by all authors. This record should remain with the sponsoring department.

Order of Authorship

  • 1. Many different ways of determining order of authorship exist across disciplines, research groups, and countries. Examples of authorship policies include descending order of contribution, placing the person who took the lead in writing the manuscript or doing the research first and the most experienced contributor last, and alphabetical or random order. While the significance of a particular order may be understood in a given setting, order of authorship has no generally agreed upon meaning.
  • 2. As a result, it is not possible to interpret from order of authorship the respective contributions of individual authors. Promotion committees, granting agencies, readers, and others who seek to understand how individual authors have contributed to the work should not read into order of authorship their own meaning, which may not be shared by the authors themselves.
  • 3. The authors should decide the order of authorship together.
  • 4. Authors should specify in their manuscript a description of the contributions of each author and how they have assigned the order in which they are listed so that readers can interpret their roles correctly.
  • 5. The primary author should prepare a concise, written description of how order of authorship was decided.


  • 1. Research teams should discuss authorship issues frankly early in the course of their work together.
  • 2. Disputes over authorship are best settled at the local level by the authors themselves or the laboratory chief. If local efforts fail, the Faculty of Medicine can assist in resolving grievances through its Ombuds Office.
  • 3. Laboratories, departments, educational programs, and other organizations sponsoring scholarly work should post, and also include in their procedure manuals, both this statement and a description of their own customary ways of deciding who should be an author and the order in which they are listed. They should include authorship policies in their orientation of new members.
  • 4. Authorship should be a component of the research ethics course that is required for all research fellows at Harvard Medical School.
  • 5. These policies should be reviewed periodically because both scientific investigation and authorship practices are changing.

Adopted on December 17, 1999.

Reference: Authorship, Harvard Medical School


Print ISSN: 3022-9650
Online ISSN: 3022-9669

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