Scholarly Publishing Round-Up July 2018

Authorship is the topic of July’s Round-Up with a look at multiple first authors and corresponding authors.

Noting contribution efforts by authors

The National Library of Medicine issued an update: “Equal Contribution for Authors in PubMed” in September 2017. Journal publishers who submit citation data to PubMed may now indicate equal contribution among authors. The data are display only and cannot be searched in PubMed.

NLM/PubMed relies on the publishers to provide publication information as to authors who have shared first authorship.

What are examples of equal contribution for authors? Some terms found in the literature are: co-first authorship, “contributed equally,” “joint first authors,” among others. Some publishers impose limits on number of co-first authors; Nature Research journals allow up to six authors to be noted as contributed equally.

Nature Research journals also allow one set of up to six co-authors to be specified as having contributed equally to the work or having jointly supervised the work. Other equal contributions are best described in author contributions statements.

Other journals discourage the use of co-first authorship. One example is Academic Medicine:

Co-first authorship is discouraged. We will consider co-first authors only in situations in which a compelling argument is made by the authors. If two authors wish to share the role of first author, the corresponding author should specify this in the submission and provide justification for the decision. To indicate co-first authorship, the published article will include a note that, “The authors have informed the journal that they agree that both Author A and Author B completed the intellectual and other work typical of the first author.”

There are trends moving towards acknowledging the role of all authors for scholarly works. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) encourages editors to implement a contributorship policy.  The National Academy of Sciences has created a TACS (Transparency in Author Contributions in Science) webpage to list the journals that commit to setting authorship standards, defining responsibilities for corresponding authors, requiring ORCID iDs, and adopting the CRediT Taxonomy. Two examples of publishers that require use of the CRediT Taxonomy are: PLoS and The Company of Biologists’ Journals.


Cappell MS. J Med Libr Assoc. 2016 Oct; 104(4): 363–364. Equal authorship for equal authors: personal experience as an equal author in twenty peer-reviewed medical publications during the last three years.

Conte ML, Maat SL, Omary MB. Increased co-first authorships in biomedical and clinical publications: a call for recognition. FASEB J. 2013 Oct;27(10):3902-4.

Akhabue E, Lautenbach E. “Equal” contributions and credit: an emerging trend in the characterization of authorship. Ann Epidemiol. 2010 Nov;20(11):868-71.

Dotson B. Equal contributions and credit assigned to authors in Pharmacy journals. Am J Pharm Educ. 2013 Mar 12; 77(2): 39.

Brown BD, Merad M. Authorship: Archives and citation miss equal authors. Nature. 2015 Dec 17;528(7582):333.

McNutt MK, Bradford M, Drazen JM, et al. Transparency in Authors’ Contributions and Responsibilities to Promote Integrity in Scientific Publication. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Mar 13;115(11):2557-2560.


What about co-corresponding authors?


The corresponding author is the one individual who takes primary responsibility for communication with the journal during the manuscript submission, peer review, and publication process, and typically ensures that all the journal’s administrative requirements, such as providing details of authorship, ethics committee approval, clinical trial registration documentation, and gathering conflict of interest forms and statements, are properly completed, although these duties may be delegated to one or more coauthors.

Some publishers allow for more than one corresponding author. PLoS allows only one corresponding author to be designated for the submission process but multiple corresponding authors can be noted on the work. PLoS does not restrict the number of corresponding authors. Cell Press prefers one corresponding author but: for some studies, particularly for interdisciplinary ones, multiple authors may bear the responsibilities of a corresponding author. If you feel strongly and have compelling reasons, you may include additional corresponding authors. We may ask you to explain your rationale and to verify that all corresponding authors understand their responsibilities.

Nature Research journals allow up to three corresponding authors. Corresponding authors have specific responsibilities and are usually limited to three.


Weiss PS. Who are corresponding authors? ACS Nano, 2012; 6(4):2861.

Hu, X. Loads of special authorship functions: Linear growth in the percentage of “equal first authors” and corresponding authors. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 2009, 60 (11), 2378–2381. (there are a number of screenshot examples at the bottom of the page)

JMIR Editorial Director. Can there be two corresponding authors? JMIR Help Center. 2017.


Please also see resources on Research Integrity & Authorship from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research:

Authorship on Scientific and Scholarly Publications Policy

Author’s Checklist for Preparation of Publications 


Questions? Contact Cathy Sarli or Amy Suiter