Authorship is a privilege and a responsibility at the same time. It is a recognition, an honor and a factor in academic promotion.
In general, the resident responsible for the study should be the first author (principle author). The most senior and active mentor should be the last author. There is a possibility to have two co-principle authors, and two mentors can be co-mentors, but this is unusual.
A good guide for authorship is ‘The Guidelines for the Conduct of Research in the Intramural Research Program at NIH’ – see page 17
Dr. Goldman’s rules of thumb:
- Determine authorship early on (first meeting on a research project).
- Set clear expectations, responsibilities for everyone involved in the study.
- Data collection only or floating an idea for a study is not a reason to be an author (but it can be acknowledged in the end of the paper). An author should significantly contribute on at least 2 tasks related to the project.
- If activities change drastically, make sure to bring the team together and openly discuss a need to change authorship order.
- Make and circulate a list of who is doing what on your project, and keep track of contribution throughout the project.