From the APA Science Student Council

Authorship Negotiation: A Graduate Student Perspective

As part of the research process, negotiating authorship can be a positive experience. Become involved in conducting research whenever possible because your continued involvement in research and publishing will significantly advance your professional development as a psychological scientist.

The Science Student Council is a group of nine graduate students who spend a couple of weekends a year with the Science staff, advising on programs and activities that would benefit graduate students in psychological science. This month, and every month for the next year or so, the students will present useful information that other graduate students need to know! Visit the Science Student Council to learn more about the activities of the SSC.

Authorship Negotiation: A Graduate Student Perspective
by Paul Poteat 
 
 

Conducting research and publishing your work as a graduate student are essential to your professional development. These activities provide opportunities to learn new skills, network with other researchers, and personally contribute new knowledge to the field. As you advance, you will likely carry increased responsibility throughout the research process. Authorship is the primary way to acknowledge individual contributions to a project, and it is a rewarding experience to see your name on a published manuscript. Because of the importance placed on publication in the field of psychology and the increasing number of multi-authored articles, negotiating authorship is an important part of the research process.

Negotiating authorship is a dynamic process, rather than a predetermined or fixed decision. Therefore, an open discussion about authorship among all individuals is necessary throughout the research process. This will optimally begin at the inception of a research project and involve a thoughtful examination of expected contributions. Researchers sometimes use authorship negotiation worksheets and agreement forms to help direct this process. Consider your short-term and long-term goals and how your involvement on a specific project will help you work toward these goals. Keep in mind that you will eventually be involved in multiple projects simultaneously during your graduate studies. It might at first feel intimidating to discuss the role(s) you would like or expect and your place as a contributing author. However, this is as an excellent learning opportunity as part of your professional development as a researcher and colleague. Most advisors will be happy to talk with you about authorship and consider this a part of the student-advisor relationship.

As a graduate student, you will also want to consider several factors when becoming involved in certain projects. For example, you might give special consideration to projects that are primarily longitudinal. In this case, discuss with the primary investigator whether she or he intends to produce manuscripts only at the end of the investigation, or if several manuscripts are planned throughout the process. Also discuss if or how your authorship or authorship order would be affected if you graduate before the completion of the entire project. Involvement in longitudinal research can be particularly rewarding if clear expectations exist at the beginning of your involvement.

In most cases, negotiating authorship is a collegial activity. However, situations can develop throughout this process that can lead to misunderstandings or authorship disagreements. Revisiting expectations is essential and provides a basic way to identify any early development of disputes. Discussing authorship at regular intervals or at major developments in the project can help minimize the potential for disagreement later in the project. Generally, disagreements should first be addressed between the project contributors. Come prepared with an understanding of your contributions and consider the perspectives of other collaborators. It is possible that collaborators are unaware of the actual level of involvement of others, especially when projects are being conducted at multiple institutions or are longitudinal. You might also find it helpful to consult with individuals outside of the project or review your university’s handbook.

As part of the research process, negotiating authorship can be a positive experience. Become involved in conducting research whenever possible because your continued involvement in research and publishing will significantly advance your professional development as a psychological scientist.

Interested in learning more about authorship? Visit the APA Science Student Council page to read more about authorship negotiation, worksheets, common reasons for changing authorship, and other authorship issues for graduate students.