Suggestions to Improve the Comprehensibility of Current Definitions of Scientific Authorship for International Authors

Science and Engineering Ethics 26 (2):597-617 (2020)
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Much has been said about the need for improving the current definitions of scientific authorship, but an aspect that is often overlooked is how to formulate and communicate these definitions to ensure that they are comprehensible and useful for researchers, notably researchers active in international research consortia. In light of a rapid increase in international collaborations within natural sciences, this article uses authorship of this branch of sciences as an example and provides suggestions to improve the comprehensibility of the definitions of authorship in natural sciences. It assesses whether the definition of authorship provided by the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity can deal with current issues and problems of scientific authorship. Notably, problems that are experienced in project groups with researchers coming from multiple countries. Using theories developed by Jürgen Habermas and Robert Merton, a normative framework is developed to articulate ethical authorship in natural sciences. Accordingly, enriching the current definition of authorship with normative elements and using discipline-specific metaphors to communicate them are introduced as possible ways of improving the comprehensibility of the definition of authorship in international environments. Finally, this article provides a proposal to be considered in the future revisions of the European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity.

Author Profiles

Mariëtte Van Den Hoven
Utrecht University
Mohammad Hosseini
Northwestern University
Hub Zwart
Erasmus University Rotterdam


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