Highly recommended: this workshop report on “contributorship and scholarly attribution.” The basic problem is well-known: “authorship” of published (or sometimes presented) materials—and the meaning and expression of “authorship” varies widely—is the only yardstick many disciplines have for measurement of scholarly contributions, and it’s a blunt and inadequate one, especially as research collaborations grow and span disciplines with different credit norms.
This lucidly-written report captures many problems well, gives ferociously fascinating examples, and suggests that participants are taking fruitful paths forward. This is all good.
The one phenomenon the Loon thinks participants largely missed (or if they didn’t miss it, the report does not contain much evidence that they took it seriously) is of great interest to librarians, IT staff, and other technically-skilled research professionals: what about us? What about those academe is starting to call “alternative academics,” after the great Bethany Nowviskie? We didn’t write the paper, but often enough, without us it wouldn’t have been written and once it is written, won’t survive.
We have our own career needs, individual and even collective, that differ in greater or lesser ways from those of tenure-track researchers and career scientists. (Some librarians go through tenure processes, for example; others have different retention-and-promotion paths. As academic libraries seek to reassert their campus importance, too, acknowledgment of librarians’ roles in research would be enormously helpful.) A scholarly attribution system that ignores us and our needs is not just, nor does it adequately capture the reality of how modern research is done.
(As for “substantial intellectual contribution,” the Loon will somewhat acidly remark that in her experience, most academics have a very bad and very persistent habit of discounting all intellectual contribution to projects but their own, often out of pure ignorance of the intellectual labor that inheres in what other participants in the research process do. She hopes this phrase will be usefully problematized in future work on scholarly credit and attribution.)
The Loon understands that the folk in attendance were academics and publishers attending to their own problems. She therefore suggests that future work on this problem include some of us, too, for the necessary breadth of perspective. Instrument technicians. Archivists analog and digital. Systems administrators, web programmers, and other IT staff. Data modelers, curators, and visualizers. Reference librarians. Technical writers. Statisticians. Many, many others.
Because we, our contributions, and our careers matter too.
The matter of credit by Library Loon, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.