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Giving Credit where Credit Is Due (and Assigning Individual Responsibilities)

      For most scientists, publications are the “currency of the realm.” Professional recognition, career advancement, opportunities, and funding decisions are all influenced by numbers of publications, the perceived impact of the journals in which publications appear, and the extent and nature of individual contributions to each publication. In biomedical sciences, the latter have historically been inferred by readers based on assignments to positions in lists of authors. While never ideal, this convention, which differs among disciplines, has become untenable.
      The lack of accepted criteria for authorship and reliance on senior authors to “do the right thing,” the increasing complexity of clinical and laboratory investigation, and the increasing prevalence and importance of team science has resulted in a dramatic expansion of author lists. It is now virtually impossible for readers to discern the relative importance of individual contributions to a scientific publication from a typical author list alone. A related concern is assignment of responsibility for various aspects of multicomponent research efforts. With investigators competing for constrained resources to support studies that are often in the public’s interest, a systematic approach is indicated.
      Several years ago, a multi-stakeholder group began an effort that has culminated in the development of a contributor role taxonomy for use in scientific publications (termed “CRediT”). A major goal of the effort was to codify terms for contributor roles with unambiguous meanings. Details of the development process have been summarized in several publications (
      • Allen L.
      • Scott J.
      • Brand A.
      • Hlava M.
      • Altman M.
      Publishing: Credit where credit is due.
      ,
      • Brand A.
      • Allen L.
      • Altman M.
      • Hlava M.
      • Scott J.
      Beyond authorship: attribution, contribution, collaboration and credit.
      ). For the purposes of this editorial, it is sufficient to indicate that 14 terms have been defined (see Table 1) and vetted. Use of CRediT has been embraced by many prominent scientific professional societies and journals (
      • McNutt M.K.
      • Bradford M.
      • Drazen J.M.
      • Hanson B.
      • Howard B.
      • Jamieson K.H.
      • et al.
      Transparency in authors’ contributions and responsibilities to promote integrity in scientific publication.
      ,
      • Berg J.
      Transparent author credit.
      ), and the JID will also implement it. As of January 1, 2019, all submissions will be required to include an author contribution list that assigns a defined role to each author and indicates whether the author played a lead, equal, or supporting role related to their contribution. The corresponding author will be charged with the responsibility of providing this list and attesting that all authors have reviewed the list and agree that the role designations are correct.
      Table 1CRediT Terms (see the CRediT Fact Sheet at http://docs.casrai.org/CRediT)
      Contributor RoleRole Definition
      ConceptualizationIdeas; formulation or evolution of overarching research goals and aims.
      MethodologyDevelopment or design of methodology; creation of models.
      SoftwareProgramming, software development; designing computer programs; implementation of the computer code and supporting algorithms; testing of existing code components.
      ValidationVerification, whether as a part of the activity or separate, of the overall replication/reproducibility of results/experiments and other research outputs.
      Formal AnalysisApplication of statistical, mathematical, computational, or other formal techniques to analyze or synthesize study data.
      InvestigationConducting a research and investigation process, specifically performing the experiments or data/evidence collection.
      ResourcesProvision of study materials, reagents, materials, patients, laboratory samples, animals, instrumentation, computing resources, or other analysis tools.
      Data CurationManagement 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 PreparationCreation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically writing the initial draft (including substantive translation).
      Writing – Review and EditingPreparation, 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.
      VisualizationPreparation, creation, and/or presentation of the published work, specifically visualization/data presentation.
      SupervisionOversight and leadership responsibility for the research activity planning and execution, including mentorship external to the core team.
      Project AdministrationManagement and coordination responsibility for the research activity planning and execution.
      Funding AcquisitionAcquisition of the financial support for the project leading to this publication.
      Multiple benefits are anticipated. Those that relate to recognition for individual contributions are obvious. Over time, the use of standardized terminology will also allow development of metadata that will have the potential to facilitate the objective evaluation of individual scientists’ contributions to the scientific community over the entirety of their careers or specified periods. Another potential benefit is that it will be straightforward to dissociate attributions for contributions from authorship.
      Not all key contributions to a report justify authorship. While the JID has long stated its adherence to the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ standards of authorship (see www.icmje.org), as of January 1, 2019, we will require that all authors publishing in the JID attest to: 1) having made a substantial contribution to the conception or completion of the research that has been described; 2) having participated in drafting the paper or revising it critically for important intellectual content; 3) having approved the submitted version of the manuscript; and 4) agreeing to be accountable for the integrity of their contributions and responsive to any investigations that might be required to resolve concerns regarding the publication at a future date. Those contributors to the research project not meeting these authorship criteria should be credited in the acknowledgments section of a submission rather than on the author list.
      A related and important issue is unambiguous identification of individuals who are credited as authors and contributors. The JID has favored the use of unique ORCID identification numbers for submitting authors for several years (
      • Gilchrest B.A.
      • Blalock E.N.
      Who Wrote That?.
      ), but ORCID identification numbers have not been required. As of January 1, 2019, ORCID identification numbers will be required for all authors publishing in the JID. Results published in the JID are contributed by an increasingly diverse group of scientists, and it is no longer possible for each of us to know personally all of our colleagues. The JID cannot address this reality, but we can ensure that when we read each other’s publications we know exactly who has contributed what. For more information regarding ORCID, and to get your own ORCID identifier, visit https://orcid.org.
      These changes are anticipated to enhance the value and utility of the Journal and to allow the JID to continue to be recognized as an enterprise that is compliant with contemporary industry standards and practices. Satisfying these new requirements should not be onerous, but the small burdens that may accrue to some authors can be reduced by registering for ORCID identification numbers in advance. We want you to be able to submit your exciting results to the JID without delay.

      Conflict of Interest

      The author states no conflict of interest.

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