McGoogan News

A Quick Look at Authorship and Contribution Statements

By Emily Glenn

Are authors’ contribution expressed in all journal articles? What control do authors have and when? Do databases convey this information up front?

Author contributions are recognized differently across journals, depending on the policies of the journal publisher. Reputable journals abide by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ (ICHME) recommendations for authorship based on the following criteria:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work interpretation of data for the work; and
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and
  • Final approval of the version to be published; and
  • 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.

Authors should expect to see authorship guidelines stated (or referenced) on the “resources for authors” section of reputable journal websites. Near those guidelines should be information describing how journals manage authorship and contributor listings. It is increasingly seamless—in process—to identify authors’ contributions: journals ask for descriptions, forms are filled, boxes are checked, and statements are presented using at least some text from a template.

In the final published version of journal articles, the location and look of author contributions vary. In PLoS journals, a “CO” or asterisk stamp in the author list can contain information about roles and joint or equal authorship. Nature journals also allow one set of up to six co-authors to be specified as having contributed equally to the work; other equal contributions are described in author contributions statements. Cell Press uses footnotes and offers an Author Contributions section to more fully describe each author’s specific contributions.

Journals have been able to adapt to the demand to present contributions, but biomedical literature databases have not. Just this month, PubMed began to make equal authorship information from publisher’s data. The # (pound sign) in PubMed records indicates that authors contributed equally.

At this time, other major biomedical literature databases, like Scopus of Embase, do not show author contributions at the database record level (other than dual corresponding authors).

The demand for transparency around author contributions in the published biomedical literature goes back at least 40 years.  The ICJME formed in 1978, originally as a group of editors seeking to standardize reference formats. Their work evolved in the early 1980s as they became responsible for the ethical implications of the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals (URM). After reckoning with many authorship scandals, the ICJME added a key statement to the 1988 revision of the URM: “Each author [listed in a work] should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for the content.” The ICJME continued to improve on this statement in 1991, then again in 1993.

It was only in the mid- to late 1990s that the topic of stating authors’ contributions made its way into the biomedical literature. A 1999 letter to Nature describes a landscape where authors need persuasion to describe their contributions and journals do not necessarily want to ask the question from those submitting articles for publication. Also in 1999, an article states that The Lancet did “courageously require the contributions of each author to be cited in papers.” The author suggested that funding bodies should drive the conversation of contribution and demand for more transparency.

By 2010, there was a significant amount of literature about authorship in biomedical literature. One study reported that that “that the percentage of articles with equal contribution statements has increased dramatically in five top medical journals since the beginning of the 21st century.”(Akhabue and Lautenbach, 2010)  Contributions and credit continue to be studied alongside bibliometrics, the changing nature of the scholarly record, and scholarly networks.



Akhabue E, Lautenbach E. “Equal” contributions and credit: an emerging trend in the characterization of authorship. Ann Epidemiol. 2010;20:868–871.

Davidson M. Equal Contribution for Authors in PubMed. NLM Tech Bull. 2017 Sep-Oct;(418):e5.

Huth, E. J., & Case, K. (2004). The URM: twenty-five years old. Science Editor, 27(1), 17-21.

White B. Funding agencies must use their muscle. Nature. 1999;400(6743):398-.

Speaker on diversity September 27

Dr. Hassan A. Tetteh, MD, MBA, FACS, FACHE, will present Embracing Diversity for Improved Health Outcomes to the UNMC community on September 27, 2017 at noon in MSC 2014.

Dr. Tetteh is Command Surgeon at the National Defense University, Associate Professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, adjunct faculty at Howard University College of Medicine, and served as Division Lead for Futures and Innovation at Navy Medicine’s Headquarters, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Dr. Tetteh specializes in cardiovascular disease management, heart failure surgery, and heart and lung transplantation.  He serves on social impact organizations such as:

  • Champions for Kids, a nonprofit dedicated to positively transforming the lives of children
  • Mentoring in Medicine, to inspire the next generation of health professionals
  • Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health , which collaborates with community members to design, incubate and replicate neighborhood-based interventions that address health conditions that disproportionately affect minorities.

Take time out in the Reflection Room

We are firmly in the new semester and stresses can increase. Take a moment or two to visit the Reflection Room. The room is available for students, faculty, and staff to carry out quiet meditation or reflection. The room holds displays of art that will rotate periodically, soft lighting, and comfortable cushions and mats for meditation. A massage chair is also available in the room.  Contemplative music selections are available for access via QR code on your mobile device. The Reflection Room is located on the 8th floor of the McGoogan Library of Medicine in room 8016A and is open to all during regular library hours. No reservations are required. The room was made possible by funding from the Department of Psychiatry,

McGoogan Library additionally has a Wellness Corner on the northwest side of the 6th floor. A massage chair, large-format relaxing images, a coloring station, and wellness-themed books on relaxation techniques, yoga, and managing stress are available. Relaxing song and music recommendations are also available in this area via QR code on your mobile device.

Class registration: predatory publishing, systematic reviews, and citation managers

To support your research and writing, the library is offering the following three classes. Registration is required and sessions will be livestreamed and made available in our video archive.

Predatory Publishers and Open Access

Instructor: Emily J. Glenn, MSLS

This session focuses on selecting a scientific or biomedical journal for publication of research articles. Presenters will demonstrate how to use library resources like Scopus and Journal Citation Reports along with reference checklists to evaluate journals. We will address salient characteristics of potentially predatory journals as well as core tenets of open access, often conflated with predatory publishing. Participants will review real website of potentially predatory publishers and share strategies for selecting journals in their disciplines.

October 13, 2017, MSC 1005, 12:00pm – 1:00pm (Livestream available)

Systematic Reviews: What’s It All About?
Instructors: Roxanne Cox and Emily Glenn

This session will provide participants with an understanding of the systematic review process and standards and describe the benefits of including librarians on their teams.

  • Panelists from College of Public Health, College of Nursing, and College of Medicine will share their experiences working with systematic review teams and advice for those who are newer to systematic reviews.
  • Librarians will discuss their role as systematic review team members, describe services the library provides, and outline how to get started.

October 25, WH8011, 11:30am – 12:30pm (Livestream available)


Intro to Citation Managers – EndNote, RefWorks, Mendeley, & Zotero

Instructors: Emily J. Glenn, MSLS and Cindy Schmidt, MD, MLS

Get to know these four popular bibliographic citation management program and decide which is best to use with your individual and collaborative projects. In this session, we will demonstrate the strongest features of these four programs, demonstrate collection and organization of citations and PDFs, and review output and full-text linking.

October 30, DRC1006, 3:30pm – 4:20pm

October 31, WH8011, 12:00pm – 1:00pm (Livestream available)


Predatory journals in PubMed?

It has been reported in the journal literature and on scholarly publishing blogs that PubMed contains articles from predatory journals. In short, articles from potentially predatory publishers may appear in PubMed, although they are not part of MEDLINE. 

We turn to PubMed as an authoritative source for biomedical literature, so what happened? Simply put, there is a “backdoor” for getting journals listed in PubMed. PubMed is the publicly accessible platform of the MEDLINE database from the National Library of Medicine. However, PubMed is also a portal for finding PubMed Central articles in journals that are not indexed in MEDLINE. When searching MEDLINE on platforms such as Ovid, Scopus, or EBSCO, you are likely searching only MEDLINE, depending on your search filters. In PubMed, by default, you are searching MEDLINE and PubMed Central together, in addition to other collections.  When you see the [Indexed for MEDLINE] tag below the abstract, you can tell that an article is from a publication indexed in MEDLINE, such as this one. Very new records will not have this tag, but may be from a journal indexed in MEDLINE. You can also see if a journal is indexed in MEDLINE by looking it up in the NLM catalog.

If you have questions about MEDLINE or searching the biomedical literature, contact a librarian.