Researchers hold mixed opinions, with some advocating a streamlined approach that credits only germane contributors
Geophysicist Marcia McNutt routinely reads a stack of journals ranging from the Journal of Geophysical research to Science and Nature. When she reads a paper in any of these publications, she usually feels safe making a few assumptions about the authors listed on the paper.

"I usually assume the first author is the person who actually did the research," says McNutt, a professor of earth and planetary sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "I assum if there is a senior person who is last author, whether that's second or thid, that that is the person who probably wrote the proposal to fund the research and had the idea to begin with, but generally did not personally carry out the research.

"And then, if there is an intermdeiate author, I usually assume that is a...

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