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Writing a massively multi‐authored paper: Overcoming barriers to meaningful authorship for all

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Elizabeth T. Borer
  • Andrew S. MacDougall
  • Carly J. Stevens
  • Lauren L. Sullivan
  • Peter A. Wilfahrt
  • Eric W. Seabloom
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>30/06/2023
<mark>Journal</mark>Methods in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number6
Number of pages11
Pages (from-to)1432-1442
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date24/04/23
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The value of large‐scale collaborations for solving complex problems is widely recognized, but many barriers hinder meaningful authorship for all on the resulting multi‐author publications. Because many professional benefits arise from authorship, much of the literature on this topic has focused on cheating, conflict and effort documentation. However, approaches specifically recognizing and creatively overcoming barriers to meaningful authorship have received little attention. We have developed an inclusive authorship approach arising from 15 years of experience coordinating the publication of over 100 papers arising from a long‐term, international collaboration of hundreds of scientists. This method of sharing a paper initially as a storyboard with clear expectations, assignments and deadlines fosters communication and creates unambiguous opportunities for all authors to contribute intellectually. By documenting contributions through this multi‐step process, this approach ensures meaningful engagement by each author listed on a publication. The perception that co‐authors on large authorship publications have not meaningfully contributed underlies widespread institutional bias against multi‐authored papers, disincentivizing large collaborations despite their widely recognized value for advancing knowledge. Our approach identifies and overcomes key barriers to meaningful contributions, protecting the value of authorship even on massively multi‐authored publications.