Guide to Authorship

Publication ethics is integral to everything we do at MDPI. Our guidelines and regulations are developed to guide authors. Also to ensure adherence to industry best practice publishing standards. However, this means they can be also difficult to understand and follow.

This article details MDPI authorship guidelines and the history of these guidelines.

What is Authorship?

Authorship refers to the person or persons involved in the production of a manuscript. It’s used to designate credit for the specific work completed on a manuscript. This is important for academic reputation and social and financial implications.

MDPI follows the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines. The guidelines state that in order to qualify for authorship of a manuscript, authors must meet all four criteria described below.

Authorship Criteria

  1. Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work.
  2. Drafting the work or reviewing it critically for important intellectual content.
  3. Final approval of the version to be published.
  4. Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work, ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Authorship Criteria Advice

The ICMJE makes it very clear that all authors who meet all four criteria should be credited as authors. However, those who do not meet all four criteria should be acknowledged in the Acknowledgements and Contributions section.

In addition, they state that the guidelines should not be used to disqualify and prevent colleagues from meeting criteria #2 and #3 during the review, drafting, and final approval of the manuscript process.

Further information regarding authorship can be found on the MDPI research and publication ethics guidelines or the ICMJE website. Moreover, if you would like more information about AI in academia, we recently published an article on Artificial Intelligence: Ethical Considerations in Academia.

What is ICMJE?

The ICMJE is a small community of general medical journal editors and representatives of selected related organizations. They work together to improve the quality of medical science and its reporting. They have been providing clear guidance for the conduct of reporting, editing, and the publication of scholarly work in medical journals since 1978.

The first edition of this document was known as Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals (URMs). It’s now referred to as “Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals.”

The ICMJE first developed the URMs to standardize manuscript format and preparation across journals. Now, the recommendations are used to review best practices and ethical standards in the conduct and reporting of research and other material published in medical journals. It also helps authors, editors, and others involved in peer review and biomedical publishing create and distribute accurate, clear, reproducible, and unbiased medical journal articles.

What is COPE?

COPE has been supporting editors, publishers, universities, research institutes, and all those involved in publication ethics for 25 years. It provides resources and guidance on providing the highest standards of ethics in publication. This includes a wide range of flow charts that clearly explain important policies and guidelines. Furthermore, they also provide e-learning opportunities. This gives practical guidance on a wide range of topics, including plagiarism, falsification, authorship, conflicts of interest, and misconduct.

Acknowledgements and Contributions

Those who do not qualify for the above criteria but still contributed to the manuscript must be listed in the acknowledgements section. In this section, all authors’ contributions should be listed. Along with their initials, their contributions to the manuscript should be described.

The corresponding author should act as a point of contact between the editor and the other authors. This ensures that all authors are informed and involved in decisions. In addition, joint authors must be indicated, and the role of equal authors should be disclosed in the contribution statement. All examples of contribution statements can be found in the MDPI guidelines.

Furthermore, for review articles, the contributions regarding ideation, literature search, and data analysis should be listed. Also, articles that are student dissertations should have the student listed as the first author.

Consortium or Group Authorship

Authors who are represented by groups or consortiums should list the organization in the author list. For example, author A on behalf of the consortium or group. The group members will then be listed in a separate section at the end of the article in Acknowledgments, Appendix, or Supplementary Materials.

Authorship in AI

As knowledge about and the usage of AI grow in all fields, it’s important to be aware of its use and guide authors on what is acceptable. MDPI guidelines for AI follow the COPE position statement. AI tools cannot be listed as authors. They do not meet the authorship guidelines as they cannot meet the requirements because they cannot take responsibility for the submitted work.

Authors who use AI tools in the writing of manuscripts or for producing graphics or images should be listed in the materials and methods section of the manuscript. Where and how the AI tool was used should be fully disclosed in the materials and methods section.

If authors do not disclose when AI has been used in the manuscript, this could lead to rejection of their manuscript. Furthermore, MDPI reserves the right to request further information, and editorial decisions will be made in line with MDPI’s editorial process and our terms and conditions.

If you’re interested in learning more about AI general intelligence, please see our recent article, What is Artificial General Intelligence?

Deceased Authors

In unfortunate circumstances where authors pass away before the manuscript is published, the corresponding author or co-authors have the responsibility of informing the editorial office. In cases where the corresponding author has passed away, the authorship group should nominate a co-author for this role. Once published, the manuscript will have a note added under the author list.

Changes to Authorship

Requesting any changes to the authorship of manuscripts can cause delays and complications. Because of this, we ask authors to ensure that they have resolved any authorship disputes and contacted all authors before submission.

This is because any authorship issues must be resolved before the manuscript is published. Any authorship changes, such as an addition, removal, or rearrangement of the author names, will require the approval of all authors. Furthermore, any authorship changes must be requested using an authorship form, where a detailed explanation must be given for the changes as well as all the author’s signatures.

After publication, changes to authorship become more complicated. Because of this, they must be evaluated and then require the publication of a correction.

In addition, we reserve the right to request evidence of authorship, and changes to authorship after acceptance will be made at the discretion of MDPI.

Authorship Disputes

Finally, in regard to authorship disputes, MDPI follows the COPE guidelines.

COPE states that journals are not responsible for adjudicating appropriate authorship contributions. In addition, authorship disputes are not usually grounds for manuscript retraction. In situations where disputes cannot be settled by the affected parties, journals will reach out to an appropriate institution or governing body for final adjudication. MDPI reserves the right to amend authorship lists in line with institutional or governing body recommendations.

Establishing authorship and contributions can become complicated. Especially as new technologies that can aid the writing process become available, such as artificial intelligence. Here at MDPI, we try to be as clear as possible on authorship criteria. This is so that important decisions can be made before the publication process begins.


Authorship is an important aspect of a manuscript to consider and credit appropriately. It should be addressed ideally before the submission of a manuscript and formalised before its acceptance. Here at MDPI, we are constantly updating our authorship guidance following both ICMJE and COPE standards.

If you’re interested in reading about ethics in regard to Open Access, please see our article Ethics in Open Access Publishing.