Relative contribution should be given after each author's name

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7043.1423c (Published 01 June 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1423
  1. William Foulkes,
  2. Norah Neylon
  1. (0.7) Medical scientist (0.3) 51 Lansdowne Gardens, Pointe Claire, QC, Canada H9S 5B9

    EDITOR,—Richard Horton and Richard Smith's editorial addresses the continuing problem of authorship.1 The authors suggest that a “film credit” style of authorship might be possible. This would be unwieldy. An even less plausible alternative is the use of font size to indicate relative contribution to a scientific paper.2 This would result in visually interesting title pages but would not solve the problem because this method has no upper bound.

    We propose another, more practical solution. This would be simply to record after each author's name his or her fractional (or percentage) contribution to the paper in question. There would be no further need for the faintly embarrassing statement, “these authors contributed equally to the work” (on what basis is priority therefore decided?), as it would be clear that the percentage contribution was the same, and then all the authors could be listed alphabetically. This new method would also lessen the need for “senior” (that is, last) authors to resign from positions of responsibility when papers published under their name are discovered to be fraudulent. If their contribution was marked as 1% they could claim 1% of the credit when things went well and 1% of the blame when everything went sadly awry. As a British Conservative cabinet minister might ask—”Is that a resigning issue?”

    In the spirit of this enterprise, one of us (WF) wrote this letter, which is on a topic that both of us have often discussed over the past year or so. So, by mutual agreement, WF scores 0.7 and NN scores 0.3.

    This proposal would, of course, create another problem, since the fractional contributions would have to be argued over. But it would at least allow those interested to make more useful estimations of relative contributions.


    1. 1.
    2. 2.
    View Abstract

    Sign in

    Log in through your institution

    Free trial

    Register for a free trial to thebmj.com to receive unlimited access to all content on thebmj.com for 14 days.
    Sign up for a free trial