Jo Scott and Liz Allen, from the Wellcome Trust’s Evaluation team, discuss the potential of a new “taxonomy” for classifying contributions to research papers.
Original research papers with one author – particularly in the life sciences – are increasingly rare. We know that there are many contributors to research and associated published outputs, but it’s not easy to tell who did what, and author position is an imperfect representation of contribution. Inflation of author numbers on papers, partly driven by a combination of national research assessment exercises and the emergence of big, collaborative and ‘team’ science, has also contributed to this ambiguity. Greater clarity around the different and varied contributions to research outputs could have benefits for all the stakeholders in research.
The recent San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment emphasised a commitment to move away from Journal Impact Factor as a measure of research quality. Initiatives that would bring greater clarity to authorship would provide a new basis upon which to recognise researcher contribution and research use and re-use.