Author Affiliation

Nov 02 2008 Published by under Science Publication

Lab Lemming asked one of those questions that one thinks is a complete no-brainer. Until people start chiming in with their opinions and you realize yet again that not everybody has the same take on the unspoken issues.
What institutional affiliation does one list on academic papers?

Lab Lemming posed a rather simple (and easily generalizable if you consider trainees) scenario:

If a private sector researcher is submitting a manuscript to an academic journal, and said researcher is concerned that the timescale of peer review might be longer than the timescale of employment (or even employer solvency) due to the current economic situation, is it considered unprofessional to use non-work contact information?

At the simplest level of the journal being able to contact this author, this is a no brainer. Certainly one should feel free to include the gmail or yahoo email address if one is concerned about losing access to an employer address. Of course this is mostly moot because for most modern journals with online submission, one can presumably change the personal contact information and instantly the correspondence will be appropriately routed.
In my view, the more interesting question here has to do with what goes under the author name as the local university, institute or company at which the author was employed when the study was conducted. Oops, just in writing this I'm showing my bias. I think that the affiliation is for the place where the author in question was employed when the (bulk of) the work was completed. So this does not change just because the company has gone belly up or the author has been fired or recruited elsewhere.
It is okay to have multiple affiliations listed if substantial work was conducted across job postings. If, however, a paper has been submitted, an author has moved and no additional substantial work has been done at the new posting then the appropriate thing to do is to list the "current address" in the Acknowledgment or special footnote (depending on journal practice). What one should not do is to change the affiliation to one's new employer as if that is the place at which the work in question was conducted.
Although I am not certain, it seems perhaps some of the comments at LLL may not see things this way.

12 responses so far

  • Lab Lemming says:

    Your assumption is that the lead author is employed as a researcher at the time the researcher is conducted. In geology, it is not uncommon for industry scientists with advanced degrees to have seasonal jobs (in a mine, on a rig, whatever), and to do research during the off season with academic collaborators. Obviously the collaborators will have their home institutions listed, but if the girl putting it all together goes off contract in November, finishes the study over the (southern) summer, and starts with a new company in March, it's a bit ambiguous.

  • Coturnix says:

    What does one put when publishing research conducted at home, using one's own finances?

  • I always assumed you listed your affiliation as who you were affiliated with when the research was done, even if that affiliation is over when the paper is published.

  • Eric Lund says:

    I agree with Isis. In my experience, though, someone who has changed affiliations since the research was done will usually be marked with the footnote "Now at PresentEmployer." Similarly, a co-author who dies before the paper is published generally gets a "Deceased" footnote.
    In answer to Coturnix's question: I have seen one or two cases where the unaffiliated author lists his personal mailing address. But check with the journal: they may want you to list any official affiliation you have, even if you did the work on your own dime.

  • I always assumed you listed your affiliation as who you were affiliated with when the research was done, even if that affiliation is over when the paper is published.

    This is correct. You then list your current affiliation as a special footnote entitled "Current Address".
    Comrade PhysioProf's last paper written in collaboration with his post-doc mentor included data collected both in his mentor's lab and in his own new lab. Thus, he listed both affiliations on an equal footing; his new affiliation was not listed as "Current Address", thereby signaling that the work was performed in both places.

  • David Crotty says:

    Yes, one would use one's home address. A good friend did this years ago, having dropped out of science to support his family with a better paying job, he was still engaged in the research questions that intrigued him. He begged and borrowed old equipment from friends' labs and set up in his garage on weekends. He published under his name and his home address. The biggest hurdle though, was that he was using fish as his model system, and had trouble finding a journal that would publish animal research conducted somewhere that didn't have the required oversight/approval for such research.

  • Lab Lemming says:

    Thanks, David. That's the sort of thing I'm wondering about. Most masters and PhD level industrial geologists I know have a part time research agenda that bubbles away during off seasons or between jobs or whatever. Luckily we don't need to worry about oversight committees, but I'm sure its only a matter of time before activists start demanding the ethical treatment of rocks...

  • Coturnix says:

    Thanks, David. If the darned banks unfreeze giving loans and I manage to buy a house, I will consider doing something like this. And could ask the IACUC from one of the local schools to do approvals and inspections. Or I can do pilots and if they work, get a collaboration with someone at a University.

  • Samia says:

    What about someone who's retired from academia? Do you list a home address?

  • Alex says:

    There's the tricky issue of "visitor" positions, which can range from very formal Visiting Professorships to basically being a collaborator who got a keycard for the lab. In addition to my primary affiliation as a tenure-track professor, I retain some sort of "adjunct" status (their term, not mine) at the place where I did a postdoc, which basically means that I have enough paperwork to justify having a key to the lab when I visit my colleagues (who are still current collaborators). The place where I was postdoc has a more prestigious name than my current affiliation, but I don't think I could justify listing them as an affiliation on papers--they may give me some paperwork, but they don't pay me anything.

  • Wouldn't this all be resolved with an author ID system, where each specific scientist acquires an ID number in Pubmed?

  • lost academic says:

    I have just been wondering this myself for a slightly different reason, and maybe the esteemed readers can give their thoughts if they are so inclined. A colleague and I are considering writing an article that while specifically related to our work at our company, would not be supported in any way by the higher-ups (it's a very small company) and wouldn't involve any material from our work. It would also be researched and written independently. Should we list our professional affiliations when submitting the article, and/or should we list our company contact information? To some extent I have to say I am a bit loathe to give credit to the company with this work, which I think is a very interesting problem and once defined in the way we hope, has a significant chance at affecting methods in this field.

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