Collaborative Authorship: EDGI’s Values-First Approach to Attribution

By Kelsey Breseman, Stephanie Knutson, EDGI

One of this year’s initiatives for EDGI’s working group on organizational structure is to more publicly share some of our organization’s modes of work, adding to a growing conversation around remote work, collaboration, and non-hierarchical decision-making. For this reason, we’d like to share EDGI’s Authorship Protocol. EDGI’s work developing and sharing this protocol is inspired and guided by CLEAR Lab‘s feminist, anti-colonial approach to research and intellectual attribution that “emphasizes process and equity rather than system and equality” (Liboiron et al. 2017, 3). The protocol we use is a pragmatic guide (who should be listed as an author, on what, and in what order?), but it is also a short encapsulation of our philosophy. The way we approach those questions exemplifies for us a way of thinking that translates our core values into courses of action.

We’ve picked out two points from the Protocol that highlight this values-into-action quality:

“EDGI values the care work of coding, coordination, bookkeeping, and other administrative or technical duties, and acknowledges their labor alongside the ‘intellectual’ work that normally has exclusive domain of bylines.”

What’s the purpose behind this?

Contribution of all types should be recognized – not just the researcher or writer, but also the editor, the coordinator, and the software developer who worked on the project. Generous attribution recognizes the many types of work that are critical to the production and distribution of our publications. This is one of the reasons that EDGI (our organization) is always listed as a coauthor.

How does this play out in practice?

Ideally, we would start a contributor list at the beginning of each project that will result in publication. In practice, sometimes we forget – but because our work is performed all remotely, it is not too difficult to compile a list by scrolling back through a Slack channel and through the Google Docs version history.

“The process of determining author order in EDGI is “performative: it enacts and strengthens the values we hold dear.” (Liboiron 2017, 10) EDGI, as a values-based organization, uses author order as a way to provide meaningful value to collaborators.”

Why do we do this?

Author order is determined in part based on the varied impacts attribution might have for different authors. EDGI’s contributors include citizen scientists, junior academics, established professors; administrators and coordinators; freelance developers; people who are paid for this work (directly or indirectly) and people who are not. Attribution can be meaningful to individuals’ careers, income, or sense of satisfaction in this work – so we pay attention to the order of authors as a way to give contributors deserved and meaningful credit.

How does this play out in practice?

For most of EDGI’s publications, there is a clear leader or lead author, and then a number of other contributors. The lead on a given publication will typically initiate a conversation both to ensure that all contributors are credited and to discuss author order. Our strong values come from our strong community, so it is common for a contributor to suggest that a particular person be higher-ordered in the author list, either because it would be meaningful to their career or because their work on the publication was particularly valuable.

We hope this Protocol is useful to you and your organization! We would love to hear how other organizations handle collaborative authorship and attribution – please reach out to us over any of our social channels to share (Twitter, Facebook).

You can read the full Protocol here: EDGI Authorship, Attribution, and Citation Basic Guidelines