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anonymous junior faculty

the footnote with "both authors contributed equally to this paper" might seem like nickel and diming/fussing to you, but it is extremely important to many people's promotion and tenure cases that they have documentation of how much work they did on the paper. (I can tell you that I don't/haven't coauthored, but I've still received advice on this from multiple people, e.g. at tenure advice panels at my university.) If you don't have the footnote, then the people evaluating them only have their word for it. The footnote is a way of the *other* author stamping approval on terms, so that people evaluating the case don't either need to trust the candidate (which I agree they mostly ought to, but that's not what happens), or go seek out the co-author and ask them for their candid feedback.

Marcus Arvan

anonymous junior faculty: Ah, that's a very good point!


Just to answer the original questioner in a direct way, my own answer is "yes, probably" for cases 1 & 3 but not for 2.

(I think 1 & 3 wouldn't be exploitative if there were a footnote indicating that the supervisors did less than half the work, but say "probably" because my guess is that there is no such footnote.)


Just to be clear: some of these cases are majorly not okay. For example:

"One person reported drafting the entire paper by themselves, receiving feedback by their supervisors, and being asked to add their names as co-authors"

There is no world in which this qualifies as acceptable behavior.

Marcus Arvan

Oops, yeah I'm sorry that I didn't respond to the OP's cases more directly! I usually try to do so, and am sorry that I merely focused on more general issues.

In any case, I agree that 1 & 3 in the OP are really bad/exploitive. 2 is a bit more of a 'grey area', given that the senior person came up with the main idea--but even here, I'm inclined to think it is probably a bit problematic for one person to do all of the writing, especially given the power imbalance that is plausibly involved between a senior person and a junior author. But I'm curious what others think.


I've collaborated on a few papers, though none have been published yet. To my mind, there should first be an explicit agreement that the paper will be co-authored, and then both parties need to follow through on that commitment by making substantive contributions. If not, then someone gets dropped.

Beyond that, I favour the footnote plus an alphabetical ordering.


I am not sure that its best to think of the issue in terms of "standards," that one might pass or fail. It might be better to think in terms of paradigms and similarity to them.

I have coauthored a number of times. Each time, each person contributed at every stage--generating ideas, doing readings, taking notes, drafting material, editing material, etc. For me, that's the paradigm of co-authorship; each person equally participates at every stage. The three cases OP mentions deviate from this paradigm in various ways. It seems to me that the first and second cases aren't cases of coauthoring; the third might be, but it is too under described.

I wouldn't put as much emphasis on Marcus' 1. The main idea for a paper might come from a coauthor ...or a coworker or friend or random person on the street. Merely coming up with an idea shouldn't be enough to qualify for authorship, nonetheless primary author--at least in the humanities.

Shen-yi Liao

Going beyond the practical, there is substantial philosophical scholarship on the point of authorship, which include various recommendations. My most recent favorite is


which also includes a review of this literature, as well as offering a very innovative proposal of its own.

More practically, I think the ICMJE recommendations are currently prominent in the sciences, and it seems in principle applicable to philosophy.


By these recommendations, the second and third cases from the original post could reasonably be considered co-authored.

Though, like other commentators, I agree that it would be best to explicitly discuss and note different authors' contributions. Here are some suggestions from AP(sych)A:


a co-author

Some of the projects I have worked on involve working with people with skill sets and knowledge that I do not have - and I am not going to learn. In turn, they were working with me because I had knowledge and skills they lacked. This is pretty normal - indeed, standard - in many fields and in a lot of discipline crossing work.
And the idea that you can settle authorship issues at the start is often misguided. The only "fight" I had over authorship was when me and my co-author kept insisting that the other deserves to be first author - we were both grateful for the other's contribution.

Assistant Professor

Building on Shen-yi Liao's post with helpful resources, in addition to the ICMJE link about defining authorship in medical journals, many medical or medicine-related journals (including the Journal of Medical Ethics which many philosophers appear in) require authors to indicate on the publication itself how they each contributed to the publication. This makes explicit the kind of thing "anonymous junior faculty" pointed out is often missing but relevant to promotion files.

The other things to say about STEM fields is that the LAST author is generally the "senior" author (the person who runs the lab the work came out of, the person who overall mentors the project) and this last authorship actually comes with prestige rather than being viewed as having contributed the least to the project. These projects often involve MANY authors so it is a bit different than say a two-author philosophy paper where the lead author likely did the bulk of the conceptual and writing work and the second author could just as easily be their peer, but it is to say some of the norms at work in one field may be different than in another field and this is important to pay attention to if doing inter-disciplinary work.

Michel seems to suggest co-authorship should be presumed to be equal and the default should be alphabetical order and a footnote explaining the nature of the collaboration. It is incredibly hard to develop and write an idea in a completely equal way, but even if you do, if you frequently write with the same person then I would at least alternate who is the first author each time you write with that person so that you each appear as lead authors some of the time. This stuff actually does matter for optics, and a lot of people will see your citations but not necessarily open your paper and read the footnote to see you it was "an equal collaboration between both authors." It would not benefit the person whose name appears later in the alphabet to look like someone chronically capable of only playing second fiddle to someone else's lead.

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