I’m currently writing paper #2 (I’ve done three drafts, and it’s almost to the point of being submittable! yay!), but I’m really at a loss for who should be a co-author and who I should put in the acknowledgments.

Here’s the deal – we wouldn’t have been able to get telescope time for this project if we didn’t have our two collaborators. However, they didn’t take the data, nor did they do any of the data reductions/analysis or writing of any portion of the paper. They are not in my particular research field, so, although they will read the paper before it is submitted, they won’t be able to give any comments on the actual science.

So, do I put them as co-authors (because we wouldn’t have the data without them) or in the acknowledgments section (because they didn’t do any work on the actual data or paper)?

Please help – I don’t want to get in a situation that could be thought of as academic fraud!

Thanks for the comments so far!

I asked a couple of professors here about the etiquette regarding this situation, and both gave me some really great advice. They both agree that, basically, it’s always better to err on the side of caution – and if we couldn’t get the data without our collaborators, then it’s safe to put them as co-authors.

I was actually quite surprised by the answers they gave – they didn’t just brush me off or give me a one liner. They both took the time to really explain the situation (and even gave personal examples from both sides) and gave thoughtful, and useful answers.


Comments on: "Co-Author or Acknowledgment?" (11)

  1. It sounds like acknowledgements to me. That’s where I put all the grad students, etc, who worked on the field project I did to get my data. Co-authors are limited to people who performed analysis and/or writing to contribute to the paper.Congrats on your great progress!


  2. Talk to your advisor – this is something that he/she will have the ultimate on.


  3. PiT – advisor would like to put them as co-authors because “it would be nice”…I don’t think I agree with him.


  4. LOL – I mean, I agree that’d it be a nice thing to do, but I don’t think there is any reason too.


  5. I think apart from talking to Advisor think about future as well. are you going to collaborate with them in the future? Is there something they can do with the paper? is there any more data that could fit, therefore making them more necessary and more coauthors?Good luck!


  6. chall – that’s a good point. Since both researchers are not in my area, they probably couldn’t work with the data (even if there was something else they could do with it).I’m posting an update on the post now.


  7. Personally, I would have voted for the acknowledgments, but I think it can be field specific… but it sounds like you get an answer from those around you (yeah for helpful co-workers and supervisors!) I’m also of the opinion that it doesn’t hurt me to have another author on my paper (to a certain extent) but that might explain the plethora of names after mine and my project partner’s but before my boss….


  8. It sounds like you have decided on a course of action, but I’ll give my two cents anyway.My first thought was to ask if there was any sort of agreement about authorship when you established the collaboration.My second thought was that if the collaborators didn’t contribute to the paper intellectually then they belong in the the acknowledgments and not as authors.My third thought was that things might be different in astronomy than in biology.My fourth thought was, “I wonder if Husband is one of the collaborators? Did I just argue him out of an authorship?”My fifth thought was, “Doesn’t matter if Husband is one of the collaborators, I still think they should go in the acknowledgments.


  9. I agree with most of you, and I would have put them in the acknowledgments as well. But, my supervisor would like to put them as co-authors, so that’s fine with me.


  10. I have been in this situation before, but it was arranged ahead of time that they would be co-authors if they got the data for us (might want to think about doing this in the future). Would it actually be possible to just ask them what they would prefer? Personally, if somebody asked me and I hadn’t done any of the work, I’d say, thanks for the thought, but acknowledgments are fine. You could also just add them as co-authors and who knows, maybe they’ll email you back saying, so kind of you, but please just put me in the acknowledgments.


  11. Dawn – we actually chatted to them about a month ago about them being co-authors, and they said that’d be great and thanked us. Anyway, it’s all been decided – we will put them as co-authors. I’m just learning all of this, and should have thought about it before any of this happened. At least I’ll know for next time!


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