1. Curry, Kim PhD, FNP-C, FAANP
  2. Editor-in-Chief

Article Content

When asked to list the steps involved in preparing a manuscript, most authors are able to recognize these elements: find out the requirements of the targeted journal, develop an outline, devote time to writing each section, and prepare all of the final documents for submission. However, there is one critically important first step that is often overlooked, and that is the establishment of authorship.


Why is it so important to negotiate authorship first? Because failure to formally discuss and document plans for authorship can lead to lost time, lost publications, lost friendships, and lost reputations. These serious and often lasting problems have all happened to well-intentioned authors, and it's unfortunate because they are all avoidable.


There are a few key questions that should be considered to negotiate authorship when a potential author realizes that he or she may have a valid manuscript idea. As you read through these, remember that a manuscript is defined as the paper itself, including the applicable sections such as introduction, background, methods, results, and conclusions. The manuscript is related to but distinguishable from the research study, work project, or other material upon which the manuscript is based. Key questions are as follows:


1. Is the proposed manuscript based on my concept and my own work, and if so, do I want the responsibility of sole authorship?


2. Is my proposed manuscript based on a research or clinical project that depended substantially on the work of others, and have I discussed possible coauthorship with these colleagues?


3. If I have coauthors, has everyone on the team agreed on the overall team membership? If not, who can mediate this dispute?


4. Has my writing team agreed on the distribution of duties and grounds for removal from authorship? Did we document this in writing?


5. In what order should our names appear on the published article? Is this documented?



Authors and authorship teams who would like assistance in negotiating roles will find a useful set of agreements and contracts available from the American Psychological Association (APA, 2020).


Authorship determination should be a straightforward process. There are clear guidelines for the establishment of those who have actually written the manuscript. At JAANP, we use the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors guidelines (ICMJE, 2020), as do many of our peer journals. This is clearly stated in our author information. According to these guidelines, each listed author must have met ALL of 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.



As you can see from the above, those who have not met all requirements should not be listed as authors. This may mean that faculty mentors, supervising clinicians, administrators, or those who played a role in a research project but did not write the paper are excluded. What do you do about those who have contributed but do not meet the criteria for authorship? These contributors should be listed in the acknowledgements section of the manuscript.


No one may demand to be included in the author list and to do so is not consistent with professional ethical behavior. At times, well-meaning people who are unfamiliar with publication standards will pressure an inexperienced author to add names to the authorship list as a sign of respect or to boost publication chances. That's not OK. Each listed author must meet the authorship standards of the targeted journal. Be aware that some journals use standards other than ICMJE. That is why it is important to review the authorship standards of the targeted journal with your authorship group prior to commencing the writing project.


Journals do not determine authorship; that is the responsibility of the authors. This fact extends to the order of authors listed on the manuscript. Expectations for author order vary from place to place, especially among academic institutions. When in doubt, ask about the standard from a senior member of the faculty or a senior coworker. Typically, the first author is the one with the majority of responsibility for oversight, writing, and deadlines. The corresponding author can be anyone on the team who is willing to manage communication with the journal. The last author may be any team member, or it may be a senior faculty mentor.


In the event of a dispute, there are several paths to resolution, but all involve a key first step: stop writing. No manuscript should be submitted in the midst of an authorship dispute. A valuable resource for resolving complex disputes is the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE, 2020). This international publishing group provides algorithms for problem solving in many aspects of the publication journey.


At JAANP and many other journals, all authors must certify authorship at the time of initial submission, thus building prevention into the authorship process. However, authors who do not read before checking the boxes and certifying authorship are at risk. Similarly, colleagues who have participated in developing a study or other body of work should ensure that their interest in authorship of any future publication is expressed. After authoring a manuscript, all authors involved in manuscript development should retain e-mails and manuscript drafts to document their participation in the event of a future dispute such as a challenge to authorship.


In summary, before you ever put pen to paper to create a manuscript, think carefully. Who should be on the authorship team? Has each person agreed to their responsibilities for authorship and to the order in which the authors will appear on the published article? If not, you are not ready to start writing.


2020: The year of the nurse and midwife

In the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we are featuring a monthly tribute to an outstanding nurse in history. Our April feature focuses on American social reformer Dorothea Dix, who was born in Hampden, Maine, on April 3, 1802. Dix was not a trained nurse, but her era preceded both widely available training and state licensure. Dix became a staunch crusader for mental health reform after serving as a Sunday school teacher for imprisoned women. She traveled extensively to inspect asylums, prisons, and other sites where the mentally ill were housed. She petitioned states to provide funding for the care of the mentally ill, a rare undertaking during her era. She volunteered for service in the American Civil War at the age of 59 years and was appointed superintendent of women nurses. Dix died in 1887, after living out her final days at the Trenton State Hospital, the state psychiatric hospital that she founded and considered her home (AAHN, 2020).




American Association for the History of Nursing (AAHN) (2018). Dorothea dix. Retrieved from [Context Link]


American Psychological Association (2020). Determining and negotiating authorship. Retrieved from [Context Link]


Committee on Publication Ethics (2020). Authorship and contributorship. Retrieved from [Context Link]


International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (2020). Defining the role of authors and contributors. Retrieved from [Context Link]