The order of authors on a published scholarly article matters in academia, as the first author gets the most credit, prestige, and indication of ability and expertise for the study. As a collaborative feminist science and technology lab, Civic Lab works to include equity and justice in everything we do, from building technology to deciding how to credit our lab members for their work. Equity is different than equality; equality is about treating everyone exactly the same, while equity recognizes that everyone does not start from the same position and so treating everyone the same may leave them in the same uneven positions they began in. Equity aims to “level the playing field” by addressing unevenness that already exists.
Members of Civic Lab use the following guidelines when deciding author order:
- Author order must be agreed upon by consensus.
- Any author on the article must be familiar enough with the article as a whole that they could speak about it if asked.
- For transparency, all articles will include a “contributions” section that outlines the roles that all members played in the study.
- Support others in stepping up and stepping back during the consensus process; if a lab member is quiet or humble, advocate on her behalf. If you have been vocal, listen for a while instead of speaking.
- The following elements will be considered when deciding author order:
- The amount of time and energy put into the study.
- The type of the work; “prestigious” work such as analysis or writing should not overshadow forms of labour such as sample processing and maintenance of the lab.
- Whether the author is an academic or not; the value of order to a non-academic will be different than an academic. It is important to consider non-academics full collaborators and value them as such via authorship and author order; they should be part of the consensus process.
- Affiliation; which affiliations do we want to highlight, and why? We may want to promote new, unsung, or underfunded organizations and universities.
- Who needs the cultural capital of a higher author ranking more? Is anyone going on the job market, going up for tenure, applying for graduate school?
- Who has access to working on future projects that will result in more articles? Faculty and graduate students can create their own studies and write articles more readily than undergraduate students. Is this a unique opportunity for some authors to be recognized?
- Status; often undergraduate work is not valued as much as graduate or faculty work, even if the same labour was performed.
- Payment status; are some member being paid wages or stipends for this work, while others are not? Are they paid the same amounts or the same way?
- Number of publications authors already have; members with fewer publications can be bumped up.
- Direction of member’s research; if a paper fits particularly well with a member’s research trajectory, it may provide more value than if they are working on a different topic.
- Last but not least: consider gender, race, Indigeneity, age, disability, and other markers of privilege. Women, Indigneous peoples, and people of colour are severely underrepresented as authors in academic work. How can we address that here?
There are also ways to publish that push equitable author order practices even further. G.K. Gibson-Graham, for example, refers to two authors who joined their names because they published together regularly. Or we could publish as “Civic Laboratory” and leave individual names out altogether. As we develop as a lab, we will revisit and reevaluate our practices.