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Guidance on Authorship and Affiliation For XJTLU Postgraduate Research Students

This document aims to provide guidance and consensus of standards for all postgraduate research students regarding authorship and institutional affiliation in research publications.

Q.1. Why Authorship Matters?

Authorship confers credit and has important academic, social, and financial implications. Authorship also implies responsibility and accountability for published work. Listing the authors tells readers who did the work and should ensure that the right people get the credit - and take responsibility - for the research.

Q.2. What is an author?

According to the guidance from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), authorship should be based on the following 4 criteria:

• Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
• Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
• Final approval of the version to be published; AND
• Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

All those designated as authors should meet all four criteria for authorship, and all who meet the four criteria should be identified as authors. Those who do not meet all four criteria should be acknowledged.

Q.3. What if contributors do not meet all of the four criteria for authorship?

All others who contribute to the work - but who do not qualify for authorship - should be named in the ‘Acknowledgments’ section; and what they did should be described.

Because acknowledgment may imply endorsement by the acknowledged individuals of a study’s data and conclusions, it is best practice for the Corresponding Author to obtain written permission to be acknowledged from all acknowledged individuals.

Q.4. What is the responsibility of the First Author?

The first author is usually the person who made the most significant contribution to the research. That includes designing the work, acquiring and analyzing data, and drafting and revising the manuscript.

Q.5. What is the role of the Corresponding Author?

The Corresponding Author is the individual who takes primary responsibility for communication with the journal during the manuscript submission, peer review, and publication process; and typically ensures that all the journal’s administrative requirements, such as providing details of authorship, ethics approval, clinical trial registration documentation, and gathering conflict of interest forms and statements, are properly completed.

Research teams should take the views of all authors at an early stage, and decide in advance who will be the Corresponding Author. Ideally, choosing somebody whose contact details are not likely to change in the near future.

Q.6. What is ghost authorship?

Ghost authorship is when somebody who has made a substantial contribution to a research project or publication, and who therefore meets accepted authorship criteria for the discipline, is omitted from an author list or is denied the opportunity to contribute to a publication.

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

Q.7. What is guest, gift or honorary authorship?

Gift authorship is when somebody who has not contributed substantially to a research project or publication, and does not meet accepted authorship criteria for the discipline, is listed as an author. This could occur in situations where a senior member who has not contributed is added to boost the impact; or where colleagues agree to add each other to all articles to boost publication rates.

They do not meet the four criteria for authorship set in Q2, and should not be listed as authors.

Q.8. When should I decide the authorship?

Many authorship difficulties arise because of misplaced expectations and poor communication. All researchers are encouraged to discuss and agree on authorship strategies at an early stage in their research. So it is important that, before you start to write up your project, you confirm in writing who will be doing what - and by when. Every team should have a written authorship agreement before the article is written, as this will reduce the chances of disputes arising at a late stage.

Continue to discuss ideas about authorship as the research evolves, especially if new people become involved. Keep a written record of your decisions.

Q.9. How should the order of authorship be decided in a research publication?

The order of authorship, should be a joint decision of the co-authors unless alphabetical listing is used by the journal. Authors should prepare a note to explain the order in which authors are listed.

All authors are responsible for fairly evaluating their roles in the project as well as the roles of their co-authors to ensure that authorship is attributed according to these standards in all publications for which they will be listed as an author.

Q.10. I have more than one supervisor in my supervisory team. Shall I list all supervisors as the authors when I publish a journal article, a paper, or a book?

You don’t have to include all members in your supervisory team unless they make substantial contributions to the research and meet the criteria set out in Q2.

You are encouraged to publish your research work with the agreement of your supervisors and in accordance with the policy of the University. It is highly recommended that authorship criteria are agreed upon at the start of every research project to avoid disagreements about authorship after publication.

Q.11. How should I put the affiliation in my research publication? If there is more than one affiliation, in what order should I list them?

In principle, the affiliation should be given to the institution(s) where the research work was done. If you have more than one affiliation, the FIRST affiliation should be the institution where the majority of the work was done.

As a registered PhD student at both UoL and XJTLU, if the majority of the research work was conducted at XJTLU, “Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University” should be indicated as the FIRST institutional affiliation.

If your research is funded by the PGRS (Postgraduate Research Scholarship) or other university internal funds, “Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University” should be indicated as the FIRST institutional affiliation.

If a third party sponsored your research project and part of the research work was done with support from the third party, the order of the institutional affiliation should follow the relevant terms in the agreement reached between the university and the third party.

Q.12. How to use the Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University institutional affiliation name correctly in research publications?

The correct and consistent use of a Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (XJTLU, the University) institutional affiliation in research publications is the only way to relate an XJTLU researcher to the University. Therefore, it is highly important to use the affiliation name correctly in your research publications. You can refer to the GUIDELINES ON INSTITUTIONAL AFFILIATION IN RESEARCH PUBLICATIONS published by the XJTLU Library for more detailed guidelines.

Q.13. What should I do if there is a dispute concerning authorship?

It is strongly advised that authorship criteria are agreed upon at the start of every research project. A written authorship agreement before the article is written will reduce the chances of disputes arising at a late stage.

However, if the dispute occurs, there are various ways in which it may become known, such as informal channels, which often result in satisfactory resolution of the matter, or through formal complaints brought to the attention of head of department or dean of school/academy, or potentially via allegations of research misconduct.

It is understandable that you may feel hesitate to challenge authorship requests or decisions by your supervisor or other more senior colleagues. However, you shall know that it is within your rights to question any authorship decisions you regard as unfair or improper. Confidential guidance on this matter may be sought from the Postgraduate Support Team of the Graduate School at XJTLU, who can offer advice on proper channels for addressing those concerns.

Where authorship concerns arise at the pre-publication stage, and where it is appropriate to do so, it is best practice to attempt to address the concerns with the research team before escalating the concerns.

When raising concerns amongst the research team, it can be made clear to the Corresponding Author that you are not disputing his or her right to make such a decision, but demonstrate dispassionately why you do not agree with the decision, explaining the fact that the suggested author list contravenes best practice. Support this with evidence, such as laboratory notebooks, manuscripts, the ICMJE statement, authorship agreement, etc.

If, following attempts to address the issues through the Corresponding Author, concerns with the authorship practices are unresolved, it would be appropriate to refer the matter to either the School/Academy PGR Director or the Postgraduate Support Team of Graduate School at XJTLU. Where possible, it should be explained to the Corresponding Author that the concerns with the authorship decisions remain, and that you are intending to escalate the concerns for the purposes of obtaining a resolution.

When allegations are of a serious nature, or the above mentioned process has been proven unsuccessful, then the research misconduct process should be initiated, in accordance with the XJTLU Policy on Research Integrity.

If a dispute over authorship arises following the publication of a work, the Corresponding Author will contact the journal where the work was published regardless of whether the cause was an honest error, a disagreement between researchers, or potential research misconduct. Some changes to a published author list do not necessarily require retraction of a publication but can generally be achieved through a correction. However, if the wrongful authorship constitutes potential research misconduct, or if there are other problems with the publication, then retraction may be necessary.


We would like to extend our gratitude to the University of Liverpool (UoL), the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO), and Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), as this document was produced based on their published guidance on authorship and affiliation.

University of Liverpool: Guidance on authorship

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors: Defining the Role of Authors and Contributors

UK Research Integrity Office: Good Practice in Research: Authorship

Committee on Publication Ethics: How to Handle Authorship Disputes: a guide for new researchers

(Last Review Date: Aug 2023)


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