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ONGOING COLUMNS: Editorial

Author and Coauthor Responsibilities

Simpson, Kathleen Rice PhD, RCN, CNS-BC, FAAN

MCN, The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: November/December 2021 - Volume 46 - Issue 6 - p 313
doi: 10.1097/NMC.0000000000000761
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In Brief

MCN follows the recommendations of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE, 2021) for attributing authorship, coauthorship, and acknowledgment of nonauthor contributors: authorship is based on these four 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. (ICMJE, 2021, p 1.)

MCN welcomes manuscripts from nurse scholars at the beginning of their writing and research careers. We will work with authors who need guidance on taking their dissertation, capstone project, or quality improvement project from course requirements or clinical initiative to a publishable manuscript. We are in our second year of the MCN editorial fellowship, working with early career scholars who want to learn about the manuscript writing and publishing process.

Over the past few years, we have had a number of manuscripts submitted from doctoral students or recent doctoral graduates that are of such poor quality that they cannot be sent for peer review. On examination of the author list that includes senior, and sometimes very well-known, nurse scholars, it is quite evident that the third criterion for authorship has probably not been met. Based on the condition of the work, it is unlikely that person read and approved the manuscript, yet they have signed the electronic authorship attestation forms. Some doctoral student authors submit manuscripts that have enough potential that we decide they are worthy of peer review, although they will require substantial revision to be published. Our reviewers, all volunteers, spend several hours reviewing the manuscript and offer helpful recommendations for improvement. A revise and resubmit invitation is sent, but the author does not respond. They essentially “abandon” the manuscript, wasting our reviewers' time and an opportunity for publication after making revisions. As this is no longer unusual, I have started contacting the authors via their alternative information provided, as well as their coauthors. Here are some things I have heard from these authors: “Submission to a journal was required for graduation, I was not intending to publish the paper,” “I did not realize I would have to make so many changes because my professor told me this was a very publishable paper,” “Now that I have graduated, I am no longer interested in this topic,” “I didn't know that I should respond by indicating I was not going to resubmit.” Coauthors who are senior nurse scholars have told me that they “did not review the final draft before submission,” “did not know the student had not followed up,” and were “unaware of the ICMJE criteria for authorship.” As many nursing journal editors have interactions with students, I recognize that our experiences may not be the same.

Senior authors must be aware of ICMJE criteria for authorship and practice accordingly when advising students to submit manuscripts and agreeing to be listed as coauthor. This includes making certain the manuscript is in publishable form and approving the final version before submission. If the coauthor does not meet all criteria, an acknowledgment is more appropriate. Committee membership does not automatically confer authorship. Senior authors should offer guidance about authorship and basic manuscript publication processes to their student nurse scholars. If the project or dissertation was a learning experience but not likely publishable, make sure the student is aware. First authors who are graduate students or newly graduated should review author guidelines for any journal they intend to submit their work to including criteria for authorship. Establishing a professional relationship with the editor can be helpful for publication of later works.

At MCN, we want to give every opportunity to early career nurse scholars to publish their work. The collaboration and collegial relationship between nurse scholars in the academic setting and editors of nursing journals is vital to promoting publication of good nursing science.

Reference

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. (2021). Defining the role of authors and contributors. www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.html
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