Just 18% of researchers have received guidance on co-authorship

A new survey published by Taylor & Francis Group has revealed that researchers may not be equipped to cope with the ethical questions that academic co-authorship brings, despite its significant growth in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS).

The new white paper, entitled Co-authorship in the Humanities and Social Sciences: a global view, finds that only 18% of researchers have ever received guidance or training on the issues raised by co-authorship.

Academic collaboration has long been a feature of research activities in the Sciences, but writing has often been seen as a solo pursuit in Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS). However, 74% of respondents to the new survey report that the number of authors per journal article is now two or more.

This growth in co-authorship means that HSS researchers are now faced with several new questions. For example, what level of contribution should someone make to qualify them as an author – should the supervisor of a PhD student be included? And in what order should contributors’ names be listed – who should get the prized ‘first author’ position?

The global survey, a collaboration between Taylor & Francis Group and Professor Bruce Macfarlane of the University of Bristol, has also found that there is a ‘reality gap’ when it comes to deciding who should be listed as an author. Compared with the researchers’ ideal world, in practice too much importance is currently placed on being a senior ranked academic, the supervisor of a doctoral student, or a grant holder.

These findings come at a time when questions of authorship are among the most common concerns in publishing ethics. Author credits are an important currency of academia, vital for career progression, funding, and success in research assessments. The white paper raises important questions for institutions, publishers, and scholarly societies about the role they can play in supporting researchers to deal with these issues.

Read the full white paper for more details.