Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist • 49(2): December 2017


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


Greetings GPNSS members! Over the past year, I have been asked by prospective authors and colleagues whether The Prairie Naturalist has criteria for authorship. Given that this issue continues to arise, it is comforting to know that I am not the only one who struggles with considerations given to determining authorship. I checked the current submission guidelines and found nothing specific, which in turn motivated me to explore what other journals such as the Journal of Wildlife Management, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Ecology recommend to prospective authors (Merrill 2015). Much to my surprise, discussions of authorship have evolved beyond what I learned decades ago when first addressing the issue as a graduate student. I chose to dedicate this editorial to the issue of authorship by addressing allegations that deceptive authorship is ethical misconduct (Merrill 2015).

The number of multi-authored publications has steadily increased across disciplines in recent years (Cozzarelli 2004, Harrison 2006, Weltzin et al. 2006). For instance, when surveying the Journal of Wildlife Management, Powell et al. (2010) documented an increase in the mean number of authors from approximately 1 in 1937 to between 3 and 4 authors in 2007, which was attributed to a need for more specialization and interdisciplinary collaboration to address increasingly complex environmental problems (Katz and Martin 1997, Merrill 2015). Likewise, multi-authored publications also may enhance scientific merit, citation rates, and produce more impactful manuscripts (Harrison 2006, Jones et al. 2008, Merritt 2015). However, growing concerns over “hyper-authorship” (i.e., authorship that inappropriately increases the number of authors based on individual contributions) also has accompanied the increasing trend in multi-authored publications (Merrill 2015). Because peer-reviewed publications affect hiring, salaries, tenure, grant success rates, and prominence of researchers, the sensitivity to this issue is not surprising (Hirsch 2005). Nevertheless, including co-authors who provide limited contributions can devalue authorship and place additional pressure on researchers to seek co-authorship to maintain viable publication records (Rose et al. 2012, Merrill 2015).