Authorship Credit: A National Study of Social Work Educators' Beliefs

By Apgar, Dawn Hall; Congress, Elaine | Journal of Social Work Education, Winter 2005 | Go to article overview

Authorship Credit: A National Study of Social Work Educators' Beliefs


Apgar, Dawn Hall, Congress, Elaine, Journal of Social Work Education


PUBLICATION IN PEER-REVIEWED JOURNALS is an expectation for social work educators and required for promotions, tenure, and salary increases. With an increasing interest in research among social work educators, multiple authorship is becoming more evident in professional publications. Yet social work literature minimally provides guidance with regard to authorship credit that results from such collaboration.

This exploratory study examines decisions among social work educators about authorship credit and educators' views on issues such as use of written agreements or a point system in determining authorship credit. Other authorship issues, such as limits on the number of authors for a given article and publication of multiple articles from the same data, were also explored.

This study examined the following research questions:

1. Was there consensus among social work educators with regard to their decisions about authorship order?

2. If not, what personal characteristics of educators, if any, were related to their decisions about authorship order?

3. What research-related functions were believed to be important to educators in deciding authorship order?

4. Did the educators feel that structured agreements or criteria were necessary to assist in deciding authorship order?

5. What were the attitudes of educators about other authorship issues (i.e., limits on the number of authors for a given article, publication of multiple articles from the same data, etc.)?

Literature Review

Publication in peer-reviewed journals is the means by which educators can share information, promote themselves, and be successful in academia (Jones, 1999). Researchers should know it is unethical to falsify data or plagiarize, but Hamilton and Grego (1997) who surveyed faculty in business, arts, humanities, and behavior sciences, identify borderline ethical problems such as:

(a) "streaming" or autoplagiarism, the serial publication of many articles on the same subject with little new material in each (citing Ross McDonald, and Snodgrass); (b) "salami science" or "L.P.U." (least publishable unit) in which the research material is divided up into as many different articles as possible (citing Snodgrass); (c) the publishing of work claiming to be new without adequate reference to existing literature (citing Ross McDonald); (d) honorary authorship, which attributes authorship to parties who contributed little or nothing (citing Brogan & Brogan, and Cooper); and (e) the question of the comparative weight to be given to jointly authored publications (citing Bayer & Smart). (pp. 325-326)

According to Gibelman and Gelman (1999), multiple authored papers have increased greatly in recent years. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine lists 972 authors (Gibelman & Gelman, 1999). The increased number of multi-authored papers may be related to the pressure to publish.

A perennial question is how much credit for tenure, promotion, and merit should be given to jointly authored articles. Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) (1998) has made the decision to credit articles according to the following formula: 100% for each article written alone; 50% for each article co-authored with one other; 25% for each article written with approximately three others; and 10% for articles with ten or more authors. This proportional credit, however, is based on the assumption that each author has contributed equally, in some jointly authored articles, the authors state very clearly what the contribution of each has been. There has been the suggestion that business faculty members are more likely than arts, humanities, and behavior sciences to add noncontributory persons as authors (Hamilton & Grego, 1997).

In terms of authorship credit, the 1999 National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics advises that "social workers should take responsibility and credit including authorship credit, only for work they have actually performed and to which they have contributed" (4.

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