Intellectual Property Policies

IP02 Co-Authorship of Scholarly Reports, Papers and Publications (Formerly Policy RA13)

Policy Status: 

Under Review

Subject Matter Expert: 

Office of Technology Management, 814-865-6277,

Policy Steward: 

Senior Vice President for Research



It is the policy of The Pennsylvania State University that proper credit be given to those individuals who make material contributions to activities which lead to scholarly reports, papers and publications.


Rigid prescriptive requirements in this area are considered unwise, because the situation with respect to co-authorship varies from one discipline to another and from one publication to another. Nevertheless, it is recommended that the authors of scholarly reports, papers and publications abide by the following principles regarding co-authorship.

  1. Co-authorship should be offered to anyone who has clearly made a material contribution to the work.

    Moreover, each coauthor should be furnished with a copy of the manuscript before it is submitted, and allowed an opportunity to review it prior to submission. An author submitting a paper, report or publication should never include the name of a coauthor without the person's consent. Exceptional circumstances, such as death or inability to locate a coauthor, should be handled on a case by case basis. In cases where the contribution may have been marginal, an acknowledgment of the contribution in the publication might be more appropriate than co-authorship.

  2. In cases of theses for advanced degrees, if any publication derived from the thesis is not published with the degree recipient as sole author, then that person should be listed as coauthor. In no instance should publications derived from a thesis be published under the sole authorship of the thesis adviser.
  3. Anyone accepting co-authorship of a paper must realize that this action implies a responsibility as well as a privilege. As a general rule, each coauthor should understand the content of the publication well enough to be able to take responsibility for all of it; otherwise, the publication should clearly indicate the parts of which each coauthor has responsibility. If a potential coauthor has doubts concerning the correctness of the content or conclusions of a publication, and if these doubts cannot be dispelled by consultation with the other coauthors, the individual should decline co-authorship.


For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research.


Other policies may also be referenced, especially the following:

AC47 - General Standards of Professional Ethics.

Effective Date: January 7, 2013

Date Approved: September 14, 2012

Date Published: January 7, 2013 (Editorial changes- November 19, 2015)

Most Recent Changes:

  • November 19, 2015 - Editorial changes. Title changes FROM "Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School" TO "Vice President for Research."

Revision History (and effective dates):

  • December 20, 2013 - Editorial change in CROSS REFERENCES section. RA10, Addressing Allegations of Research Misconduct, has been removed. Revisions to RA10 make it no longer applicable to this particular IP policy as a cross reference.
  • October 25, 2013 - Editorial changes. Addition of policy steward information, in the event that there are questions or requests for changes to the policy.
  • January 7, 2013- Policy moved from the Research Administration (RA13) section to the new Intellectual Property section (IP02). Same name and verbiage was retained.
  • February 25, 2010 - Minor editorial changes made throughout the policy.
  • May 23, 2007 - Revisions to Guideline #2, to clarify publishing particulars involving theses for advanced degrees.
  • February 20, 1998 - Relocated and renumbered Policy RA13 from AD48, and updated RA10 location.