BioMed Central becomes first publisher to implement Author Contributorship Badges

The open access publisher BioMed Central is the first publisher to pilot a new system which clearly shows exactly how each researcher contributed to any given scientific article. Author Contributorship Badges are available on the open data journal GigaScience from today.

To receive credit for their work, researchers must publish. However, the traditional author list on scientific research articles provides little clarification as to who actually did what on the project. Conventions around author order often mean that key contributors to research are either left off the author list entirely, or given a position that provides no real “credit” in the grant-awarding/career ladder ecosystem.

The introduction of Author Contributorship Badges is an effort to solve this problem by crediting authors for the specific ways in which they contributed to a study. For example, it might distinguish whether the author drafted the copy, verified the results or curated the data for the project. A visual badge which illustrates their full contribution will be made available on the article page and on the ORCID site.

Amye Kenall, Associate Publisher at BioMed Central said: “Author Contributorship Badges enable people and organisations to capture the types of skills, knowledge and behaviours that we value, but often find difficult to recognise with traditional credentials. They allow researchers to decide for themselves what is useful within their respective fields.

“We’re keen to see whether Author Contributorship Badges could make an impact in academic research, in the same way as they have worked in other industries and by other organisations such as NASA, Disney, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A number of organisations have been using the  Badge infrastructure for internal professional development and for undergraduate career and learning progression.”

BioMed Central have been working with Mozilla Science, ORCID, and Ubiquity Press to develop the badges, which are built on a taxonomy around author and researcher contributions designed by the Wellcome Trust, Digital Science, MIT, and others in the CASRAI Project Credit. These badges represent the first implementation of this taxonomy for more transparent author credit.

In the first prototype instance, this project will be tested on only one journal at BioMed Central, GigaScience. Once a paper is published, the authors of a paper will receive an email with a link to complete a form indicating which badges they earned.  Once the badges have been issued, the badges will appear on the article page and on the ORCID site. The first article to have badges applied to is available here.

BioMed Central will measure the take-up of these badges by GigaScience authors (as authors will have a choice whether or not to receive one). In addition, traffic (such as clicks) will be measured, and the data will be used to determine whether this is a useful feature which could be rolled out elsewhere.