Survey of equal contributions in biomedical research publications

David B. Resnik, Elise Smith, Zubin Master, Min Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 1,540 researchers concerning their experiences with and attitudes toward the ethics of equal contribution (EC) designations in publications. Over half the respondents (58.3%) said they had been designated as an EC at least once. Although most respondents agreed that EC designations can be a useful way of promoting collaborations (81.7%) or resolving disagreements about authorship order (63.3%), a substantial proportion of respondents (38.1%) regarded these designations as useful but ethically questionable. 31.7% of respondents said EC designations are ethically questionable because ECs are difficult to define or measure and 25.9% said they are ethically questionable because people rarely contribute equally. Most respondents (71.8%) agreed that it is unfair to name two people as ECs when they have not contributed equally and that journals (73.4%), research teams (69.5%), and research institutions (63%) should develop policies concerning EC designations. Views concerning the ethics and policies of EC designations were influenced by the race/ethnicity and position of respondents but not by gender. Researchers who had been designated as ECs were less likely to regard this practice as ethically questionable than those who had not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-137
Number of pages23
JournalAccountability in Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Authorship
  • equal contribution
  • ethics
  • journals
  • policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Library and Information Sciences


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