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Authorship guidelines

The University of Manchester is committed to the highest standards of Research Integrity as set out in its Code of Good Research Conduct. The purpose of these guidelines is to set out the University’s expectations in terms of authorship and publishing research.  It conforms to guidance set out by, inter alia, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), the British Sociological Association and the Committee on Publication Ethics.  It sets out who should and should not be listed as an author and the process by which the University will handle any authorship disputes.

For the purposes of these guidelines, data are defined as information collected or used in generating research conclusions.

Responsibilities of an author

The University expects anyone listed as author on a paper to accept personal responsibility for ensuring that they are familiar with the contents of the paper; be able to defend the research outlined in the paper; and be able to identify their contribution.

Authors are expected to state their affiliation to the University of Manchester and, for clinical-based research, Manchester Academic Health Services Centre.  Only substantive and honorary members of staff and students of the University can affiliate themselves to the University.

To conduct research with integrity

Authors must ensure that research presented for publication has been conducted with integrity as defined by the University’s Code of Good Research Conduct.

Authors should ensure that original data upon which a manuscript is based is preserved and retrievable for reanalysis and audit.

To report research honestly and accurately

Authors must present an accurate and complete account of the research performed, absolutely avoiding deception, including the data collected or used, as well as an objective discussion of the significance of the research.

Data presentation must be an honest representation of the original data. Figures and images must represent actual data and not be manipulated in any way ie:

  • selective reporting of data;
  • changing/manipulating images;
  • re-using data from previous publications without making this fully clear.

When images are included in an account of research performed or in the data collection as part of the research, an accurate description of how the images were generated and produced should be provided.  If, for clarity, an image has be cropped this should be made clear in the image legend.

The research reported and the data collected should contain sufficient detail and reference to public sources of information to permit a trained professional to reproduce any experimental observations.  

Professional conclusions, opinions and research findings should include acknowledgement of the potential limitations.

To be open about the research and with the data

Data and/or samples (especially unusual or rare materials) upon which a publication is based should be made available to other scientists, except in special circumstances (patent protection, privacy, etc.), in the manuscript or through accessible data repositories, databases, museum collections, or other means when requested.

An author should cite publications that have been influential in determining the nature of the reported work and that will guide the reader quickly to the earlier work that is essential for understanding the present investigation.

Any unusual hazards inherent in the chemicals, equipment, or procedures used in an investigation should be clearly identified in a manuscript reporting the work. Authors should inform the editor if a manuscript could be considered to report research that, based on current understanding, can be reasonably expected to provide knowledge, products, or technologies that could be directly misapplied by others to pose a threat to public health and safety, agricultural crops and other plants, animals, the environment, or materiel.

Publish within the boundaries of any legal/contractual restrictions

Authors must not breach any copyright. When reproducing figures and/or schemes from previous publications, it is the authors' responsibility to seek appropriate permission from the relevant publishers.

The authors should ensure that no contractual relations or proprietary considerations exist that would affect the publication of information in a submitted manuscript.

Avoid redundant or duplicate publication

Researchers should refrain from redundant publication of their work (when two or more papers, without full cross reference, share the same hypothesis, data, discussion points, or conclusions).  A researcher who submits substantially similar work to more than one publisher must disclose this fact to the publishers at the time of submission.  Undisclosed duplication of publication is considered research misconduct.

It is generally permissible to submit a manuscript for a full paper expanding on a previously published brief preliminary account (a “communication” or “letter”) of the same work. However, at the time of submission, the editor should be made aware of the earlier communication, and the preliminary communication should be cited in the manuscript.

Not to plagiarise the work/ideas of others

Papers presented for publication must be the author’s own work, reflecting his/her own research and analysis in a truthful and complete manner,  placing it appropriately within the context of prior and existing research.  Authors should not engage in plagiarism - verbatim or near-verbatim copying, or very close paraphrasing, of text or results from another’s work.

An author should identify the source of all information quoted or offered, except that which is common knowledge. Information obtained privately, as in conversation, correspondence, or discussion with third parties, should not be used or reported in the author’s work without explicit permission from the investigator with whom the information originated. Information obtained in the course of confidential services, such as refereeing manuscripts or grant applications, should be treated similarly.

To respect the privacy of research participants

Participants have a right to privacy that should not be infringed without informed consent. Identifying information should not be published in written descriptions, photographs, and pedigrees unless the information is essential for research purposes and the participant has given written informed consent for publication. It is good practice for informed consent for this purpose to require that the participant be shown the manuscript to be published. 

Identifying details should be omitted if they are not essential, but participant/patient data should never be altered or falsified in an attempt to attain anonymity. Where complete anonymity is difficult to achieve, informed consent should be obtained if there is any doubt.

The requirement for informed consent should be included in the journal's instructions for authors. When informed consent has been obtained it should be indicated in the published article.

To be aware of the authorship policy of the journal/publisher

Most journals have an authorship policy which sets out the journal’s expectations.  Please find below a few useful links:

Nature Journals Guide to Publication

AIP publishing, Statement of ethics and responsibilities of authors submitting to AIP journals

IOP publications Introductory guide for authors

ACS Publications, Ethical Guidelines to the Publication of Chemical Research

To notify the University of any concerns of research misconduct

Staff and students of the University have an obligation to report suspected research misconduct in accordance with the University’s Code of Practice for Investigating Concerns about the Conduct of Research.

To declare conflicts of interest and funding sources

Authors should disclose any conflicts of interest and major funding sources (e.g., government agencies, private foundations, private industry, universities) for reported research.

To Report the Findings of Animal Research involving in Vivo Experiments in accordance with the ARRIVE Guidelines

The University of Manchester fully supports and endorses the ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) guidelines, developed as part of an NC3Rs initiative to improve the design, analysis and reporting of animal research.

The guidelines are provided to assist authors to improve the standard of reporting of bioscience research involving animals.  The guidance includes suggestions as to what is essential to include in a manuscript from title to discussion to allow for “reproducible, transparent, accurate, comprehensive, concise, logically ordered, well written manuscripts” (The ARRIVE Guidelines). The guidelines are not meant to restrict research, but may be found useful in guiding the planning and design stage to increase study robustness.

When submitting an article the checklist can be used to assist reviewers and editors in understanding the quality of the research being reported.

Agreeing authorship and order of authorship

Authorship should be discussed between researchers at an early stage in any project and renegotiated as necessary.  A record should be made of these discussions.  Early drafts of papers should include authorship and other credits to help resolve any future disputes.

Many different ways of determining order of authorship exist across disciplines, research groups, journals and countries. Examples of authorship policies include descending order of contribution, placing the person who took the lead in writing the manuscript or doing the research first and the most experienced contributor last, and alphabetical order.  While the significance of a particular order may be understood in a given setting, order of authorship has no generally agreed upon meaning. 

In order to determine the order of authorship, authors should decide the order of authorship together. The lead author should prepare a concise, written description of how order of authorship was decided.

Students should normally be the first author on any multi-authored articles based on their thesis or dissertation. 

Who should be an author?

All persons designated as authors should qualify for authorship, and all those who qualify should be listed.

Research, these days, is usually the result of collaboration. In general many individuals will contribute to a single piece of work.  These will include students, research assistants, research officers, technical staff and external collaborators.   The University requires that all contributors should be appropriately acknowledged in accordance with their contribution. 

Only persons who have made a significant direct intellectual contribution to the research can be listed as authors on the resulting paper.  All those meeting this criterion should be listed as authors. 

In order to be listed as author on a paper, a person should have made a significant contribution to at least one of the following:

    1. The conception or design of the project
    2. Acquisition and/or processing of data/material
    3. Analysis and interpretation of data/material
    4. Writing substantial sections of the paper (e.g. synthesising findings  in the literature review or the findings/results section)


5. Been involved in drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content;


6. Approved the final version to be published.

Where an individual has made a contribution as listed in 1-4 above, they should be given the opportunity to be an author and fulfil 5 and 6.  This is particularly important for students, research assistants and technicians where the University expects more senior staff to encourage their intellectual input and inclusion as authors on research outputs.
An author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for appropriate portions of its content and be able to defend the paper as a whole.

No person who fulfils the criteria for authorship should be excluded.  To deliberately exclude such a person may constitute piracy and be dealt with through the University’s procedures for investigating research misconduct.

Who should not be an author?

Anyone who does not fulfil the criteria as set out above should not be listed as an author on a paper. 

The following alone do not constitute authorship:

  • Acquisition of funding 
  • Collection of data
  • Provision of patients
  • Provision of equipment
  • Writing assistance (drafting or editing the manuscript)
  • General supervision of the research group
  • Providing purely technical services
  • Department chairperson who provided only general support

Those who have made lesser contributions to a work should be recognised in the acknowledgements and can be clearly credited as contributors rather than authors.  This might include interviewers, survey management staff, data processors, computer staff, clerical staff, statistical advisers, colleagues who have reviewed the paper, students who have undertaken some sessional work, the supervisor of  a research team and someone who has provided assistance in obtaining funding.

Any individual unwilling or unable to accept appropriate responsibility for a manuscript should not be a co-author.

Nobody should be named as an author without approving the final version to be published.

Honorary/gift authorship, or undeserved authorship, where named authors have not met authorship criteria, is not acceptable.