I recently led the writing of a report on software sustainability and high-energy physics: https://arxiv.org/abs/2010.05102. This report effectively has three groups of authors, with each group listed in alphabetic order: Katz – Stewart, the organizers of the workshop, leaders of the analysis and summarization, and lead authors of the report; Assamagan – Sexton-Kennedy, speakers in the workshop and authors of sections of the report; and Evans – Tunnell, contributors to the workshop and to the report. Note that there were also other workshop attendees who contributed to discussions in the meeting but are not authors.
I would have liked a way to have indicated this in the heading/authorship section of the paper. I know I could have indicated this in the text somewhere, or perhaps via many footnotes, but these didn’t seem like good options. I also could have used CRediT (Contributor Roles Taxonomy) but it seemed like overkill for this purpose. Additionally, CRediT defines roles but doesn’t explain how the authors value those roles, which I did want to do here.
In one of my other activities, I’m an Associate Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Open Source Software (JOSS), which in effect means that I act as the Editor-in-Chief for issues related to specific papers one week out of every five (handling new submissions, reviewing them for scope, assigning them to editors, working on any problem, and performing the final acceptance of publishing of submissions that complete review.) One interesting paper I accepted and published this week is:
Hoffer et al., (2020). Minerva: a light-weight, narrative image browser for multiplexed tissue images. Journal of Open Source Software, 5(54), 2579, https://doi.org/10.21105/joss.02579
Note that this paper uses footnotes to indicate that the first two authors should be considered co-first authors, and that the last author is the corresponding author, which typically in this position indicates the PI or leader of the group/team. Again CRediT (Contributor Roles Taxonomy) could have been used here but might have been overkill.
An interesting related idea in economics is the use of ⓡ between author names, which indicates that these names are in random order, and that the authors made equal contributions. (The American Economic Association has published both an article and a policy statement about this idea.)
I wonder if this could be expanded on to define authorship tiers? Rather than ⓡ, we would use ① between randomized author names in the first tier, ② between randomized author names in the second tier, etc. Combined with CrediT, this would allow both the explanation of author roles as well as a indication of their value to the author.