where a person who writes a paper is not listed among the authors, misleads readers and also should be condemned.

Policies at most scientific journals state that a person should be listed as the author of a paper only if that person made a direct and substantial intellectual contribution to the design of the research, the interpretation of the data, or the drafting of the paper, although students will find that scientific fields and specific journals vary in their policies. Just providing the laboratory space for a project or furnishing a sample used in the research is not sufficient to be included as an author, though such contributions may be recognized in a footnote or in a separate acknowledgments section. The acknowledgments sections also can be used to thank others who contributed to the work reported by the paper.

The list of authors establishes accountability as well as credit. When a paper is found to contain errors, whether caused by mistakes or deceit, authors might wish to disavow responsibility, saying that they were not involved in the part of the paper containing the errors or that they had very little to do with the paper in general. However, an author who is willing to take credit for a paper must also bear responsibility for its errors or explain why he or she had no professional responsibility for the material in question.

The distribution of accountability can be especially difficult in interdisciplinary research. Authors from one discipline may say that they are not responsible for the accuracy of material provided by authors from another discipline. A contrasting view is that each author needs to be confident of the accuracy of everything in the paper—perhaps by having a trusted colleague read the parts of the paper outside one’s own discipline. One obvious but often overlooked solution to this problem is to add a footnote accompanying the list of authors that apportions responsibility for different parts of the paper.

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