Authorship of Academic publications is central to scientists’ careers, but decisions about how to include and order authors on publications are often fraught with difficult ethical issues. To better understand scholars’ experiences with authorship, we developed a novel concept, authorship climate, which assesses perceptions of the procedural, informational, and distributive justice associated with authorship decisions. We conducted a representative survey of more than 3,000 doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers, and assistant professors from a stratified random sample of U.S. biology, economics, physics, and psychology departments. We found that individuals who tend to have more power on science teams (e.g., assistant professors and lead authors) perceived authorship climate to be more positive than those who tend to have less power (e.g., graduate students and non-lead authors). Alphabetical approaches for assigning authorship were associated with higher perceptions of procedural justice (i.e., perceptions of fairness and voice in processes and procedures) and informational justice (i.e., the extent to which individuals feel that information is justified and communicated honestly) but lower perceptions of distributive justice (i.e., perceptions of fairness in the outcomes of decisions). Individuals with more marginalized identities also tended to perceive authorship climate more negatively than those with no marginalized identities. These results illustrate how the concept of authorship climate can facilitate enhanced understanding of early-career scholars’ authorship experiences, and they highlight potential steps that can be taken to promote more positive authorship experiences for scholars of all identities.


Authorship; Authorship climate; Diversity; Empirical studies of research ethics; Organizational and institutional ethics; Organizational justice; Publication ethics; equity; inclusion in science.

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Authorship Climate: A New Tool for Studying Ethical Issues in Authorship

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