When you’re doing a PhD and writing up a study for publication, authorship can sometimes be an easy and obvious process. It’s your project so you’re number 1, the senior author, and your supervisors come after that.
However, sometimes things can get complicated. It could be that your supervisor had a lot of influence on your project, like coming up with the design and supervising the analysis, and even though you did all the hard work they feel like their intellectual contribution outweighs yours. It’s not fair, as this is your PhD, but sometimes this can happen.
Or, it could be that you’re working in a lab and helping on someone else’s project and you feel that you should be an author on their paper because you made significant contributions to their work.
Or, sometimes, people’s names get randomly added to your paper because that is the mystery of academia. I’m not saying it’s right, but I know it happens.
Authorship and credit is a tricky situation and there is a lot of politics involved. I am nowhere near experienced enough to really advise on this situation.
It would be ideal, in the planning stage of each project, to know what role each author will play and how much they will contribute. But sometimes this type of thing is worked out, messily, after the fact. The CRediT (Contributor Roles Taxonomy) can help here. And it may take the emotions out of the process. It clinically lists (almost) all types of possible contributions and you indicate which author or authors have been involved in each element. I set up a table like this and get each person involved to put their name in the column they think they will contribute/have contributed to.
|Conceptualisation||Ideas; formulation or evolution of overarching research goals and aims|
|Methodology||Development or design of methodology; creation of models|
|Software||Programming, software development; designing computer programs; implementation of the computer code and supporting algorithms; testing of existing code components|
|Validation||Verification, whether as a part of the activity or separate, of the overall replication/ reproducibility of results/experiments and other research outputs|
|Formal Analysis||Application of statistical, mathematical, computational, or other formal techniques to analyze or synthesize study data|
|Investigation||Conducting a research and investigation process, specifically performing the experiments, or data/evidence collection|
|Resources||Provision of study materials, reagents, materials, patients, laboratory samples, animals, instrumentation, computing resources, or other analysis tools|
|Data Curation||Management activities to annotate (produce metadata), scrub data and maintain research data (including software code, where it is necessary for interpreting the data itself) for initial use and later reuse|
|Writing – Original Draft||Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically writing the initial draft (including substantive translation)|
|Writing – Review and Editing||Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work by those from the original research group, specifically critical review, commentary or revision – including pre-or post-publication stages|
|Visualisation||Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically visualization/ data presentation|
|Supervision||Oversight and leadership responsibility for the research activity planning and execution, including mentorship external to the core team|
|Project Administration||Management and coordination responsibility for the research activity planning and execution|
|Funding Acquisition||Acquisition of the financial support for the project leading to this publication|
Tenzing uses a google sheet template where each person lists their name and ticks the relevant sections they have contributed to. It then produces a nicely written out list of what each person did (image below taken from their article). This then can be included as an author note on your publication.
This may not be ideal for your situation if you’re in the middle of an authorship war, but may help you prepare for the next one. Using a taxonomy like this may help take the feelings out of the process and make it a more logical one. Have you used a taxonomy like this to help you sort out authorship?