Authorship Policy


Scholarly integrity and the responsible conduct and reporting of research are essential for maintaining public trust in the research enterprise and for community benefit from research discovery. This policy sets forth principles of authorship to provide clear guidelines related to authorship of scholarly publications. 


Scholarly publications include (and are not limited to) books, articles, abstracts, presentations at professional meetings, and grant applications. This includes other dissemination of written findings, thoughts and analyses.

Approval Date

Applies To

All Northern Illinois University (NIU) employees and faculty members, and students, who are/were employed by or acted as an agent of or affiliated (by agreement) with the research. 


NIU adopts the ethical principles embodied in the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts, composed by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, as revised in 2004 (Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors).

  1. There are three conditions that typically qualify a researcher to be eligible for authorship:
    • substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data;
    • drafting or revising the article or contributing critically important intellectual content to the article; and
    • final approval of the version to be published.
  2. Any researcher that has satisfied the first and second conditions must be given the opportunity to approve the version to be published and must have the opportunity to be included as an author.
  3. All individuals who qualify for authorship should be listed. However, any person can refuse to be an author if (s)he elects to do so.
  4. Each author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take public responsibility for appropriate portions of the content.
  5. Multi-center projects should identify the individuals who accept direct responsibility for the manuscript. These individuals should each meet all three (3) conditions for authorship given above in A. When submitting a group authored manuscript, the corresponding author should clearly indicate the preferred citation and should clearly identify all individual authors as well as the group name. Other members of the group may be named in the acknowledgements.
  6. Procurement of funding, collection of data or general supervision of the research group in the absence of the above criteria does not alone justify authorship.
  7. It is recognized that definitions of authorship differ among disciplines and professional journals, as may standards for “substantial” and “scholarly effort” and the extent to which authors must participate in scholarship and authorship. For example, design/development of research equipment, or collection of a specific data set, may be a substantial scholarly effort in certain disciplines. The expectation of this Policy is that standards and criteria for authorship in an academic discipline will be widely recognized and consistent across that discipline (including within NIU), and consistent with the appropriate professional association, and/or publication in which the work appears.
  8. This policy does not address authorship disputes (credit, or order of authorship). Authorship disputes are addressed under the guidance document Guidelines for Avoiding and Resolving Authorship Disputes. Matters concerning research misconduct will be processed according to the NIU reesearch misconduct policy.


  1. Lead Author 

    As a practical matter in the case of publications with multiple authors, one author should be designated as the lead author. The lead author assumes overall responsibility for the manuscript and also often serves as the managerial and corresponding author, as well as providing a significant contribution to the research effort. A lead author is not necessarily the principal investigator or project leader or first author in every case. The lead author is responsible for:
    • Authorship: Including as co-authors all and only those individuals who meet the authorship criteria set forth in this Policy.
    • Approval: Ensuring that the draft of the manuscript is provided to each individual contributing author for review and consent for authorship. Additionally, the lead author should ensure that all co-authors agree to be designated as such and approve of the manuscript. A journal may have specific requirements governing author review and consent, which must be followed.
    • Integrity: The lead author is responsible for the integrity of the work as a whole, and ensuring that reasonable care and effort has been taken to determine that all the data are complete, accurate, and reasonably interpreted.

    There are occasions when multiple, equal contributions lead to more than one co-contributing lead authors. In cases where there are co-contributing lead authors, all assume the lead author responsibilities.

  2. Co-authors

    All co-authors of a publication are responsible for:

    • Authorship: By providing consent to authorship to the lead author, co-authors acknowledge that they meet the authorship criteria set forth in this Policy. A co-author should have participated sufficiently in the work to take responsibility for appropriate portions of the content.

      Approval: By providing consent to authorship to the lead author, co-authors are acknowledging that they have reviewed and approved the manuscript.

    • Integrity: Each co-author is responsible for the content of all appropriate portions of the manuscript, including the integrity of any applicable research.

      An individual retains the right to refuse co-authorship of a manuscript if he or she does not satisfy the criteria for authorship. It is recommended that individuals who do not satisfy the criteria for authorship should, in fact, refuse co-authorship of such manuscripts to avoid honorary or guest authorship.

  3. Acknowledgments

    Individuals who may have made some contribution to a publication, but who do not meet the definition of author, such as staff, editorial assistants, case writers, those providing technical assistance or other individuals can provide a valuable contribution to the writing and editing of publications. Since those contributions do not meet the criteria for authorship under this Policy, it is recommended that those individuals be listed in an acknowledgment and/or contributorship section of the work.

    Acknowledgments may also be acceptable and appropriate for administrative relationships, acquisition of funding, collection of data or general supervision of a research group when these alone do not constitute authorship.

  4. Unacceptable Authorship

    NIU encourages proper forms of authorship to serve as ideal role models for its students, post-doctoral fellows, trainees, staff and faculty. Accordingly, guest, gift and ghost authorship are inconsistent with the definition of authorship and unacceptable under this Policy.

    • Guest authorship (i.e., honorary, courtesy or prestige authorship) is granting authorship to an individual who does not meet the definition of author out of appreciation or respect for the individual, or in the belief that expert standing of the guest will increase the likelihood of publication, credibility, or status of the work.
    • Gift authorship is credit, offered from a sense of obligation, tribute, or dependence, within the context of an anticipated benefit, to an individual who has not contributed to the work.
    • Ghost authorship is the failure to identify as an author someone who made substantial contributions (i.e., meeting the definition of authorship) to the research or writing of a manuscript.

  5. Authorship Order

    The order of authors is a collective decision of the authors or study group. This Policy does not address questions or disputes regarding the order of authorship on publications. While it is not possible for NIU to define the order of authorship in every situation, this Policy advises that co-authors in conjunction with the lead author discuss authorship order at the onset of the project and revise their decision as needed. All authors must work together to make these informed judgments.

    Should authors fail to resolve disputes about the order of authors, this Policy suggests that the affected individual seek counsel from his or her section or division director, department chair, dean, graduate school or the Office for Research Compliance, Integrity, and Safety (ORCIS). The appropriate division, department and/or section leadership should mediate in an effort to resolve the dispute. If not successful, such mediation should be addressed by the school’s dean. For additional guidance, see Guidelines for Avoiding and Resolving Authorship Disputes.

  6. Financial Conflicts of Interest

    Authors shall fully disclose, in all manuscripts to journals, grant applications and at professional meetings all relevant financial interests that could be viewed as a potential conflict of interest or as required by NIU and/or journal. All such financial interests must also be reported internally.

  7. Violations of this Policy

    Knowing, intentional, or reckless violations of this policy may be considered plagiarism and fall under NIU’s research misconduct policy and, as such, will be referred to the Research Integrity Officer.

    Violations of the policy that do not rise to the level of research misconduct may subject the individual to corrective action or other sanctions as deemed appropriate by the Vice President for Research. Disagreements regarding the order of authorship do not, in and of themselves, constitute a violation of this policy or research misconduct.


  • 42 CFR Part 93 Public Health Service Policy on Research Misconduct
  • Northwestern University draft guidance on Authorship
  • Medical College of Wisconsin’s policy for Authorship on Scientific and Scholarly Publications.
  • International Committee of Medical Journal Editor’s Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly work in Medical Journals.
  • Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, June 2015
  • Rush University Medical Center Authorship Policy
  • Washington University Policy for Authorship

Reviewed by

  • Dr. Bradley Bond, Dean Graduate School, NIU
  • Shannon Stoker, Research Integrity Officer, NIU

Related Documents

Review and Approval Date: