Deciding on author names in publications

Publications are important for researchers. Therefore deciding on who should be named as author for an academic publication is a topic that often leads to discussions. Also the ordering of the author names in a publication is a topic for heated debate, and particularly when you work in interdisciplinary teams with different traditions, as can be seen in the version from PhD Comics below.

Here is a task I have developed as a point of departure for discussing this issue in research groups. This is a task we have used successfully at RITMO, and hopefully others can make use of it too.

Publication case

Consider the following scenario:

  • Professor Pia secures funding for a large project with a brilliant overarching research idea.
  • Professor Per leads a sub-project in the project focusing on an empirical investigation of the brilliant research idea. He hires PhD student Siri and Postdoc Palle to work on the experiment.
  • PhD student Siri and Postdoc Palle designs and carries out the experiment.
  • Administrator Anton helps with recruiting all the participants.
  • PhD student Sofie provides all the sound material used in the study, and a preliminary analysis of the sound.
  • Research assistant Anders helps with all the recordings for the experiment, including post-processing all the data.
  • Lab engineer Erik programs the system used for data collection.
  • Statistician Svein helps with the analysis of the data.
  • A large part of the analysis is done using a toolbox made by Postdoc Penelope.
  • Professor Pernille suggests an alternative analysis method in a seminar with a presentation of preliminary results of the data. This alternative analysis method turns out to be very promising and is therefore included in the paper.
  • PhD student Siri writes the main part of the paper.
  • Postdoc Palle makes all the figures and writes some of the text.
  • Professor Per reads the paper and comments on a few things.


Who gets on the publication list, and in which order?

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Alexander Refsum Jensenius is a music researcher and research musician living in Oslo, Norway.