, Volume 110, Issue 3, pp 1273–1296 | Cite as

The relationship between the author byline and contribution lists: a comparison of three general medical journals

  • Siluo YangEmail author
  • Dietmar Wolfram
  • Feifei Wang


The author byline is an indispensable component of a scientific paper. Some journals have added contribution lists for each paper to provide detailed information of each author’s role. Many papers have explored, respectively, the byline and contribution lists. However, the relationship between the two remains unclear. We select three prominent general medical journals: Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Annals of Internal Medicine (Annals), and PLOS Medicine (PLOS). We analyze the relationship between the author byline and contribution lists using four indexes. Four main findings emerged. First, the number, forms, and names of contribution lists significantly differed among the three journals, although they adopted the criteria of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Second, a U-shaped relationship exists between the extent of contribution and author order: the participation levels in contribution lists were highest for first authors, followed by last and second authors, and then middle authors with the lowest levels. Third, regarding the consistency between author order in the contribution list and byline, every contribution category has a high consistency in JAMA and Annals, while PLOS shows a low consistency, in general. Fourth, the three journals have a similar distribution for the first authors in the contribution category; the first author in the byline contributes the highest proportion, followed by the middle and second authors, and then the last author with the lowest proportion. We also develop recommendations to modify academic and writing practice: implement structured cross-contribution lists, unify formats and standards of contribution lists, draft the author contribution criteria in the social sciences and humanities, and consider author contribution lists in scientific evaluation.


Authorship Byline order Author contribution list Contribution representation 



This research is funded by Humanities and Social Science Foundation by the Ministry of Education of China (16YJA870011) and Foundation for the Author of National Excellent Doctoral Dissertation of PR China (2014094).


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Information ManagementWuhan UniversityWuhanChina
  2. 2.School of Information StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA
  3. 3.School of Economics and ManagementBeijing University of TechnologyBeijingChina

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