A new editorial in the journal of Neuroinformatics points out that we should probably have a way of handling credit that is different from authorship.

Traditionally, scientific authorship has been given a special status. We base our reputations, we get jobs (or don’t get them), we validate ourselves based on various numbers such as the H-index, all based on authorship. Remember the ‘publish or perish’ mantra?

Now that the only scientific output is no longer just papers, but also data, the question is how can we credit scientists for making scientific contributions that are not papers? One obvious place is to do it the way we always have, add them as authors.

There are authors that publish hundreds of papers a year, companies that would like to publish scientific work, consortia like ADNI that require authorship for the use of their data, and even the people who play an online game listed as authors.

Are these really authors?

Not according to either the APA or Neuroinformatics Editor, David Kennedy.

Scientific output is not limited to papers and we should not make the author field of papers a proxy for all scientific output credit especially in new modes of communication. The addition of corporate authorship to publications such that ADNI or J&J can claim authorship, is a “duct tape” solution to this question, not a real one. Authorship has to be re-thought from the ground up.