19 Mar 2018
On the critical issues of who should get credit or plagiarism by professors, the burden of proof seems difficult to resolve at best. I understand that students sometimes have differences with their advisors and other faculty members. Like in any other industry, I think there are many issues of authorship, academic bullying, retaliation, etc – you name it! The idea of talking to an Ombudsperson is great and could be helpful. However, in reality, most successful work is usually based on strong collaboration and partnership between folks who may not agree on everything. In academia, in particular, seniority, respect, and collegiality are highly prized. That is why maintaining a healthy scholarly and professional relationship between a student and advisor is critically important for the student’s academic success. Importantly, mentorship can be more important at the start of a student’s career than authorship.
With that said, when it comes to authority, I think students are always going to be at the mercy of his/her advisor. I believe that the degree of a students participation and likely success in research and other related academic endeavors are mostly based on factors outside academic merit. But, in conducting any research work for publication, it is good for the student and advisor to clearly define what may constitute a substantial contribution. A student must rightfully acknowledge the “fact” that his/her advisor or any other associated faculty is always in a “superior” position on deciding the level of involvement and contributions from the student. In social sciences, the extent to which a student contributes to a research effort may be relatively subjective (in terms of measurement and the advisor’s perception of the level of effort).
Still, I think students deserve to get credit or be assigned authorship wherever it is not due. It is hard enough for students to get credit and even harder for students to get is the first authorship (perceived as more prestigious). I find it equally hard to imagine a co-authorship situation where the student is listed at the first author when the published work does not directly deal with his/her theses or dissertation. The case may be different for post-doctoral fellows or researchers. The advisor often reviews, edit and direct a student’s research efforts in ways that may somethings seem intangible to a student, but often determine the path to success for a research effort.
For authorship between and among students, it may be easier for a faculty to help navigate the issue of authorship based on relevant knowledge and contributions by the students. But in any case, as noted in the paper, setting the roles and responsibilities at the start of a research project will help. But in all, the find The COPE Report to be an excellent starting point in deciding and resolving authorship issues. The three conditions based on “(1) substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data; (2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and (3) final approval of the version to be published” offers a good formulate for both students and faculty alike.
In addition, two important takeaways from the COPE Report are the guidelines in some journals for authors to state their contribution to the project and the acknowledgment of contributions do not merit authorship. Also, based on my academic and research interests, the National Academy of Science and the American Psychological Association both, seems to delineate the authorship relatively well. Both guidelines note that authorship should be based on substantial contribution. What I find most interesting is that fact that there are reasonable guidelines that seem carter to the interest of students. Particularly, on the issue of a student as the first author on publications coming from their theses or dissertations.