School of Life Sciences
  • Print

Guidelines for authorship/acknowledgement of SLIM (June 2018)

Overview

We follow internationally established guidelines suggesting that if scientists from SLIM contributed more than just routine techniques, they should be co-authors of papers that use data generated by the facility. 

Development or adaptation of protocols to suit samples or materials, designing experiments, extensive data analysis and interpretation are not routine and constitutes contributions meriting co-authorship. Simple acquisitions of raw data or routine sample preparations alone normally would not merit co-authorship but should still be acknowledged. 

Proper acknowledgement provides a visible measure of the impact and success of the facility and helps to secure support and funding.  

Authorship decisions are generally made at the preparation stage of a manuscript, rather than at the initiation of the work. If you are uncertain about co-authorship or have any questions or concerns about this, please discuss this issue with the Tim Self

Any data generated by using the facility resources, which is used for publication, either in the manuscript or as supplementary data, should be acknowledged, for example “We thank the School of Life Sciences imaging facility (SLIM) and staff for their contribution to this publication”. Please send a reprint of the paper, or an e-mail including the reference information for the publication to Tim Self.

We also politely request that you remember to acknowledge use of the facilities in your presentations and also cite SLIM in grants (after discussion of imaging component and costs for the grant with Tim Self).

Background

Core facilities provide our research community with state-of-the-art instrumentation and expertise, elevating the research. It is important to recognise the contributions of facility personnel to the advancement of scientific research. The type of recognition that is most appropriate will vary depending on the contribution provided. Important reasons for acknowledging contributions from core facilities in publications, by co-authorship or by formal mention in the acknowledgments section, include: 

  • Core facility personnel are scientists. When they make a substantial intellectual and/or experimental contribution to a publication they deserve to be recognised and acknowledged, just as any other co-author.
  • The existence of core facilities depends in part on proper acknowledgment in publications. This is an important metric of the value of most facilities. Proper acknowledgment of facilities enables them to obtain financial and other support. It also helps core personnel to advance in their careers, adding to the overall health of the facility.
  • If core personnel have co-authorship where deserved, it will avoid the risk of misinterpretation and help ensure the data is accurately conveyed and described.

Questions and answers

How do access charges, authorship and acknowledgements help SLIM develop?

Core facilities must charge for services rendered according to agreed cost accounting practices in School of Life Sciences. But the emphasis on cost recovery is at risk of damaging the scientific reputation of SLIM by diminishing the effort of the staff. They could be seen by the academic staff merely as a straightforward service they have to pay for, analogous to hiring a car mechanic. The truth is that SLIM is populated by highly-skilled and experienced individuals who can make complex experiments possible and provide essential support in highly specialised technologies, often with an intellectual contribution to the project. Charging for these services helps bring awareness of the investment in a project but should not preclude authorship on manuscripts. In this case SLIM personnel should have the opportunity to participate in drafting the pertinent part of the paper and give final approval to the wording and conclusions drawn before publication.

On the whole, University staff are very good at recognising efforts of all individuals involved in a project. But we should not be complacent. We risk widening a gap between research staff and personnel in SLIM with the latter being seen as “lesser” individuals; purely technologists without the need for recognition or career structure. Instead we should refocus the conversation between resource and research scientists towards the mutual goal of research excellence. Acknowledgement of their efforts in presentations and publications must be an accepted baseline.

 
When Is authorship or acknowledgment most appropriate?

Below are guidelines that will be useful for establishing our own solutions and recommendations for more specific situations. This was based on the ABRF recommendation, previously published in Angeletti et al. 1999 (FASEB Journal, 13:595): “Intellectual interactions between resource and research scientists are essential to the success of each project. When this success results in publication, a citation in the acknowledgments section of a manuscript may be appropriate for routine analysis. However, contributions from resource scientists that involve novel resource laboratory work and insight, experimental design, or advanced data analysis that make a publication possible or significantly enhance its value require co-authorship as the appropriate acknowledgment.”   

An author should have made substantive contributions to the project in any of the following ways;

• Conception, design of project, critical input, or original ideas

• Major acquisition of data, beyond routine practices

• Analysis and interpretation 

• Draft the article or revise it critically for intellectual content 

• Write a portion of the paper (not just materials and methods section)

• Provide an intellectual contribution

The following activities do not represent intellectual contributions to a project and would not constitute authorship:

• Provision of training and basic technical support for users on core facility instrumentation. 

• Routine collection of raw data using standard techniques (some technical skill needed, but the core personnel were not involved in experimental design, advising or choosing which method, materials and equipment to use, nor in any analysis or interpretation of the data).

• General supervision of research group members using the facility, but no intellectual input into their project .

By these criteria we would expect a handful of publications per year from SLIM, the remainder being acknowledgements for less significant, and more routine contributions. In every case, use of the core facility should be acknowledged as a minimum. 

All contributors that do not meet the criteria of authorship should still be recognised in the acknowledgements section.

By these criteria we would expect a handful of publications per year from SLIM, the remainder being acknowledgements for less significant, and more routine contributions. In every case, use of the core facility should be acknowledged as a minimum. 

 

For further information about imaging scientists: https://www.imagingscientist.com/

The ABRF (Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities) is an international society dedicated to advancing core and research biotechnology laboratories through research, communication, and education. See ABRF website.

"Guidelines for Including Facility Staff as Authors"ABRF 2008 Session, Salt Lake City, UTSession Organizer: Nancy Denslow, Session Participants: Steve Bobin, Tom Neubert, Laurey Steinke and Tony Yeung

Research Technologies: Fulfilling the Promise (Angeletti, R The FASEB Journal. 1999; 13:595-601).

ABRF Listserv thread April 2010 RE: "Failure to Acknowledge Core Input" Listserv thread here.

 

 

School of Life Sciences

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham NG7 2UH

Contact us