Report on the International Workshop on Scholarly Attribution

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Author: Irene Hames

There are no universal conventions that determine which scholarly contributions qualify individuals as authors or that unambiguously convey authorship precedence. As a consequence, formal attribution of authorship can obfuscate the contributions of those involved in collaborative research and writing endeavors. Publication credit can be misunderstood, and can be misapportioned by traditional impact measures. Because the allocation of credit for research and discovery has such a huge impact on careers and funding, there are increasing concerns about these issues. Contribution opacity also hinders appropriate accountability and responsibility for the integrity of the work being reported. For all these reasons, there is growing interest amongst researchers, funding agencies, academic institutions, editors, publishers and others in increasing the transparency of research contributions, and in more granular tacking of attribution and associated credit.

On May 16, 2012, individuals from a wide range of sectors with interests in scholarly publishing gathered together at an invitation-only workshop at Harvard University to discuss contributorship and attribution, and to explore alternative models. The engaging presentations, vigorous debate from varied perspectives, and productive breakout group discussions combined to produce dynamic interactions and recommendations on how attribution and citation practices could be improved.

The discussions that were generated through this workshop illuminate the ways in which scholarly communication is changing. Scientific communication is becoming more diverse and new channels are being created that make use of semantic technology. Scholars and researchers are creating and disseminating works that do not appear in traditional peer-reviewed journals but that warrant intellectual or technical credit. As the diversity of these works increases and they become more important, the limitations of traditional practices related to authorship are becoming increasingly obvious. New attribution and citation practices and standards are required.

Publisher: Harvard University Cambridge, MA, USA