International Survey of Researchers’ Experiences With and Attitudes Toward Coauthorship in the Humanities and Social Sciences

Tiffany Drake,1 Bruce Macfarlane,2 Mark Robinson1


To assess current attitudes toward and experiences of journal article coauthorship by researchers in the humanities and social sciences (HSS).


An online survey was distributed in June 2016 to 9180 researchers comprising editors of Taylor & Francis HSS journals, non–Taylor & Francis HSS editors, and researchers who published in Taylor & Francis HSS journals between July and September 2014. The survey included 13 questions about authorship and training/guidance followed by a scenario section, which presented researchers with a hypothetical situation to respond to from the perspective of their primary role in the publishing process.


A total of 894 participants (10%) from 62 countries completed all or part of the survey. Response rates varied by geographic location: Africa and Middle East, 11%; Australasia, 13%; Europe, 10%; Latin America, 18%; South and Southeast Asia, 10%; and United States and Canada, 9%. Among the 3 groups (authors, reviewers, and editors), respondents differed by mean number of articles published, sex, and age (Table). A total of 542 respondents (74%) reported that the typical number of authors per article in their area was 2 or more, and 501 respondents (56%) believed the incidence of coauthorship had increased since the beginning of their research careers. The most common reason given for increase of coauthorship was “increasing competition and greater performance-based pressures” (70%). The highest-scoring responses about common problems associated with coauthorship were “order in which author names should be listed” (52%) and “determining who should receive authorship credit” (43%). Respondents indicated that the following were important for determining authorship: “being responsible for the conception and/or design of a project” (79%); “being responsible for the analysis and/or interpretation of data” (81%); and “drafting the paper or revising it critically for intellectual content” (69%). Fewer respondents (18%) agreed that “giving final approval of the version of the paper to be published” was important for determining authorship. Respondents reported a reality gap, with “being a senior ranked member of the research team submitting a paper” and “being the research supervisor of a doctoral student whose paper gets published” considered less important in an ideal world vs the real world. Only 183 respondents (25%) reported that guidance on authorship was included in the research ethics policy of their institution, and 132 (18%) reported having received training or guidance from their institution in respect to determining academic authorship.


With article coauthorship increasingly common in HSS, a need exists to address the attendant problems of authorship attribution. The results of this survey raise questions about the role institutions and publishers could play in providing clear ethical guidance and training for researchers and editors in these areas.

1Taylor & Francis Group, Abingdon, UK, mark.robinson@tandf.co.uk; 2University of Southampton, Southampton, UK

Conflict of Interest Disclosures:

As the employees of a commercial publisher (Taylor & Francis Group), Tiffany Drake and Mark Robinson report a potential conflict of interest where findings of the survey relate to aspects of the publishing process.