AGU is working with other leading publishers to implement common standards for authorship and recognize and value specific contributions across cultures.
Authorship standards in scholarly publishing can vary across disciplines. For example, in many biology papers, the last author is traditionally assumed to be the one that has organized and led the research project. In contrast, in the physical sciences, including the Earth and space sciences, the last author is considered to have contributed the least, unless the list is alphabetical. Readers are simply expected to know these distinctions.
Authorship practices are also evolving as research papers become more complex, bringing together multiple techniques and data sets, interdisciplinary approaches, international teams, and ever-longer lists of co-authors. Authors are expected to navigate the conventions and expectations of different disciplines.
Authorship issues are also at the core of many of the ethical and other difficult issues that publishers see. One problem is including honorary authors (Zen, 1988, p. 202). Another is ghost authors, who are often from industry partners or services and were involved in framing interpretations but are not recognized. This hides relevant information about influence or conflict of interest from readers. Finally, legitimate authors may be omitted because of perceived mores around funding and collaboration, or for other reasons.
Hanson, B., and S. Webb (2018), Recognizing contributions and giving credit, Eos, 99, https://doi.org/10.1029/2018EO104827. Published on 27 August 2018.