Ethical Dimensions of Renewable Energy and Sustainability Systems

Part 3 - Authorship, Credit, and Acknowledgment


Part 3 - Authorship, Credit, and Acknowledgment


A significant motivating factor for conducting research and moving it forward is receiving credit for the research and findings. Credit is given to those who play a significant role in shaping the research and/or interpretation of results. Authorship, either of papers, project proposals, architectural plans, etc., is a primary aspect of the distribution of one's work and a necessary aspect of moving a career forward in many fields. In academic research settings, authorship and credit provide the foundations by which a researcher is evaluated. The more prestigious the journal is, the higher the impact the research is likely to be perceived to have, the more prestige the researcher. In business and policy planning, credit and acknowledgment can depend on and be evaluated based more on team and leadership performance than in academic settings. Regardless of the context, "credit where credit is due" seems an apt phrase to describe what it takes to move a career forward.

Wikipedian protester holding sign that says "Citation Needed" at a rally where a stick figure is speaking
Credit: Wikimedia (Public Domain)

Acknowledgment comes in many forms, again, depending on the context. In a commercial environment, acknowledgment may take the form of upholding patents, which may be licensed and put to use in other products. In an academic environment, acknowledgment comes in the form of citing previous works and findings upon which the current research is based. In a laboratory environment, acknowledgment may come in the form of providing credit to technicians either through co-authorship or in an acknowledgments section. Acknowledgment sections of books often cite specific examples of how certain individuals helped to shape the author's thinking around a particular point.

Credit as Currency

"The reward individual scientists seek is credit. That is, they seek recognition, to have their work cited as important and as necessary to further scientific progress. The scientific community seeks true theories or adequate models. Credit, or recognition, accrues to individuals to the extent they are perceived as having contributed to that community goal. Without strong community policing structures, there is a strong incentive to cheat, to try to obtain credit without necessarily having done the work. Communities and individuals are then faced with the question: when is it appropriate to trust and when not?"
Longino, Helen, "The Social Dimensions of Scientific Knowledge," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <>.