I appreciated the recent article on multiple authorships in the Feb. 17, 1992, issue of The Scientist [page 1]. Authorship is something that I've thought about as a physicist committed to research. Deciding who merits recognition as coauthor is similar to deciding what is good science--in both cases we must adhere to a standard of credibility. Misrepresentation in coauthorship, as in content, weakens this credibility.

Awarding honorary coauthorships is one such misrepresentation that undermines the assumption that people doing good science will be recognized for the rigor and soundness of their work. Additionally, since authorship is used to evaluate the performance of scientists for promotion and honors, weakening the standards by which authorship is granted could ultimately weaken not only academic excellence, but also the perception of accomplishment now guaranteed by titles and awards.

How, then, to avoid misrepresentation and establish guidelines for coauthorship? Years of writing and publishing suggest...

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