Question: I am a K awardee and have completed a piece of research (not directly related to my K) and have written the first draft of the manuscript. My K mentor approved the design, financially supported this work and critically read the manuscript but another colleague was much more involved in the helping me plan the research design and in extensive data analysis. Who should be senior author? How should I approach this? I completed the study, the analysis and wrote the first draft of the paper.
Answer: Authorship needs to follow the NIH guidelines for responsible conduct of research; this information is supplemented by guidelines by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Both are available online. Many journals also now request you indicate the role of each author at the end of the manuscript. In your case, you are clearly first author. Senior authorship should go to the colleague who most actively served as your mentor in this study. In this case, it is your “other colleague” and not your K23 mentor. Importantly, financial support of a study alone does not constitute authorship. Finally, it is always good to discuss authorship at the beginning of a project. It is a lesson I certainly learned the “hard way” early in my career. In your case now, explain to your mentors the basis of your decision on the authorship order. Good luck in your future research.
Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, FAAN, FANA
Russell N. DeJong Professor of Neurology
Director, A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute
Director, Program for Neurology Research and Discovery
University of Michigan
Department of Neurology
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