Human resources management/organizational behavior; Technology, R&D management
Innovation, science, teams, collaboration, scientific credit, science policy
Most scientific research is performed by teams, and for a long time, observers have inferred individual team members’ contributions by interpreting author order on published articles. In response to increasing concerns about this approach, journals are adopting policies that require the disclosure of individual authors’ contributions. However, it is not clear whether and how these disclosures improve upon the conventional approach. Moreover, there is little evidence on how contribution statements are written and how they are used by readers. We begin to address these questions in two studies. Guided by a conceptual model, Study 1 examines the relationship between author order and contribution statements on more than 12,000 articles to understand what information is provided by each. This analysis quantifies the risk of error when inferring contributions from author order and shows how this risk increases with team size and for certain types of authors. At the same time, the analysis suggests that some components of the value of contributions are reflected in author order but not in currently used contribution statements. Complementing the bibliometric analysis, Study 2 analyzes survey data from more than 6000 corresponding authors to examine how contribution statements are written and used. This analysis highlights important differences between fields and between senior versus junior scientists, as well as strongly diverging views about the benefits and limitations of contribution statements. On the basis of both studies, we highlight important avenues for future research and consider implications for a broad range of stakeholders.