Being listed as an author on a published article is one of the main goals of scientific research. Each listed author had a significant role to play in a study and has responsibility for the work presented; however, journals are now starting to ask for an author to be named the overall "guarantor" of the paper. It can be a bit confusing to differentiate the role of an ordinary author vs the corresponding author vs a guarantor, so today we take a look at these key authorship roles and try and make sense of each of their responsibilities and who to list for each category on the manuscript.
The corresponding author is a traditional role that all journals require. This author:
- is the primary point of contact for the manuscript
- corresponds with journal editor during submission process
- collects and verifies Conflict of Interest details from all authors and sometimes signs the declaration form on their behalf
When choosing a corresponding author it should normally be an author that is stable at their institution so the contact information will remain relevant many months or years down the road. You should also avoid nominating the Principal Investigator as the corresponding author if possible, as they will often not have been the primary author conducting the experiment. It is also good for younger researchers to act as a corresponding author in order to gain experience in the submission process and responding to queries about the article.
Some journals now ask for one author on a paper to be listed as a guarantor. The guarantor:
- accepts official responsibility for the overall integrity of the manuscript (including ethics, data handling, reporting of results, and study conduct)
- does not act as the primary correspondent for the manuscript
- ensures all statements in the manuscript are true to his knowledge
The guarantor can be the same as the corresponding author, or can be another of the authors. It is often recommended that the Principal Investigator or Senior Researcher on a manuscript act as the guarantor as they will be responsible for the study supervision already; however, this is not explicitly required.
It is important to note that having a guarantor does not absolve the other authors from their responsibility toward the integrity of the research and to act ethically. All authors must still meet the criteria for authorship and stand behind the work accordingly.
We hope this clears up one of the tricky new aspects of assigning authorship.