The HKU Policy on Research Integrity covers authorship criteria in the following sections:
Section 1 (‘Principle of Research Integrity’):
All members of the University must observe the highest standards of professional conduct and must comply with the following principles of research integrity in pursuing their research activities:
- fairness in giving credit and appropriate acknowledgement
[All researchers] must be fair in giving credit for the work of other researchers who participate in the research.
In pursing their research activities, members of the University should adhere to good research practices; and should not be engaged in research misconduct such as … improper ascription of authorship
Section 2.2 (‘Publication-related conduct’):
Authorship should only be based on contribution to the research proper, including contribution to the design of the study, data collection, data analysis, and reporting; and should not be for merely administrative roles. Guest authorship (i.e. including authors who have not contributed to the research) or ghost authorship (i.e. not including individuals who have contributed) are not acceptable. All authors take full responsibility over all the content of the publication, and if they are responsible only for specific parts of the research or publication, this should be clearly specified in the publication as appropriate. The criteria for the order of authors appearing in the publication should take into consideration the relative contributions of the authors or prevailing international practice of the discipline, and should as far as possible be agreed by all involved at the beginning of the research.
Where appropriate and with their permission, names of individuals or organisations which have made significant contributions to the research and the roles they played in the project should be acknowledged in publications. These include funding agencies, sponsors, and research collaborators and assistants who do not meet the authorship criteria. Important works on which the research is based, and other academics who have contributed intellectually to the research should be appropriately cited or acknowledged.
Section 2.8 (‘Reporting irresponsible research practices’):
Members of the university should report to the authorities concerned any research misconduct or suspected misconduct (refer to the document Procedures for Dealing with Alleged Staff Misconduct in Research). This includes … improper ascription of authorship
Section 3.3 (‘Improper Ascription of Authorship’):
The over-riding principle for authorship of a research output is the intellectual contribution to the research process and not merely administrative involvement. Author and co-authors should have significant participation in conceiving, executing or interpreting at least part of the research reported. The research team should agree on which individuals should be named as co-authors, and the order in which their names appear in publications.
One particularly serious offence is when senior staff (such as heads of department or supervisors) coerce colleagues or students into allowing the former to take the credit of the research in question as their own, either wholly or partly, and not acknowledging or giving proper credit to the latter. This is a failure of leadership and of moral responsibility.
Misleading ascription of authorship includes the listing of authors without their permission, attributing work to those who have not in fact contributed to the research, and the lack of appropriate acknowledgement of work primarily produced by a research student or any associate. Due recognition of all participants is an important part of a proper research process. Authors should ensure that the work of research students, research assistants, and all support staff is properly acknowledged. It does not matter whether the researchers were employed or otherwise paid for their work.
Each author must endorse the whole work. The authors of the research output should read the final paper and agree that each of them has met the minimum requirements for authorship. It is unethical to claim authorship without reading and approving the final draft in its entirety. All of the authors are equally responsible for the contents of the research output; if the contents are bogus then all authors carry the blame. Responsibility cannot be shifted from an academically senior author to an academically junior one, and vice versa.
The unattributed re-presentation of any research output whether for research or teaching in a language other than the original is unacceptable.
In essence, the criteria for authorship set out in the HKU Policy on Research Integrity are as follows:
- The author should have contributed to the research proper (including contribution to the design of the study, data collection, data analysis, and reporting) and not just carried out a merely administrative role .
- All authors take full responsibility over all the content of the publication, and if they are responsible only for specific parts of the research or publication, this should be clearly specified in the publication as appropriate.
- Guest authorship (i.e. including authors who have not contributed to the research) or ghost authorship (i.e. not including individuals who have contributed) are not acceptable.
- The criteria for the order of authors appearing in the publication should take into consideration the relative contributions of the authors or prevailing international practice of the discipline, and should as far as possible be agreed by all involved at the beginning of the research
See also the following pages which discuss the authorship criteria set out in the external documents cited in Section 2 of the HKU Policy on Research Integrity:
- The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity: Authorship Criteria
- ORI Introduction to the Responsible Conduct of Research: Authorship Criteria
- Singapore Statement on Research Integrity: Authorship Criteria
In addition, standards which appear in other sources may be useful as a point of reference and comparison for legal researchers:
The following case studies are related to authorship criteria:
- How do you agree on authorship with fellow researchers?
- Legitimate authorship – a survey of educational researchers in Hong Kong
- Should students offer co-authorship to their supervisors?
- What constitutes authorship – a COPE case study