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Fact Sheet
Authorship in MEDLINE®

A MEDLINE citation may contain an array of personal author names, group (or corporate) author names, and collaborator names.  This Fact Sheet explains the current policies that are followed in designating these forms of authorship and other contribution in MEDLINE. 

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) encourages authors, journal editors and publishers to consult the guidelines of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (http://www.icmje.org/) and Council of Science Editors (http://www.councilscienceeditors.org/) when determining authorship attribution for a manuscript being prepared for publication. 

NLM uses the PDF (Portable Document Format) version of an online article as the primary version for verifying bibliographic data.

Publishers include author and collaborator data in various ways. For example, authors and collaborators may be linked from appendices, footnotes, or otherwise found in supplementary documentation. NLM prefers that authorship and collaborator data be in the full text of the article rather than associated with the article in a supplementary online file. If, however, these data are recorded in a supplementary file, then two conditions must be met:

  1. provide a clear indication in the main article of how to find these data, perhaps through the use of footnotes or other statements that can be easily found from the byline area, the bottom of the first "page" of an article, or near the acknowledgements area at the end of an article, and
  2. publish the supplementary file with the article (do not link out to another Web site).

In general, the PDF and HTML (HyperText Markup Language) versions of an article should have the identical author and collaborator data content, although that content may be presented in different ways.

Personal Author Names

Personal author names are included in MEDLINE when the author names appear in the article byline, or are explicitly identified anywhere else in the text of the article as the authors or as the members of the writing group or writing committee for the article. 

The authors are entered in the same order in which they are published in the journal article.  There is currently no limit to the number of authors that may be included for a MEDLINE citation, except when the author names are published in non-Roman alphabets.  (For information about current and past limitations to the number of authors included in MEDLINE, see http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/mms/medlineelements.html#au.)

Group (Corporate) Authorship

Group author names (also known as corporate, organization or collective names) are included in MEDLINE when such names appear in the article byline. 

More than one group name may appear for a citation, and a group name may appear along with personal author names.   When both personal and group author names are present, they appear in most PubMed® displays in the order in which they are published in the article.  Names published in the article byline appear in PubMed before names that may be published elsewhere in the article.

Group names are entered for a MEDLINE citation exactly the way they appear in the article, except that definite or indefinite article words such as “the” or “a” at the beginning of the name are not included. 

For articles that represent a formal guideline or practice guideline (and are thus indexed with the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH®) publication types Guideline or Practice Guideline), the name of the guideline-issuing body is entered as a group name for the MEDLINE citation, even if that name does not appear in the article byline. 

Collaborator Names

When a group name for a specific consortium, committee, study group, or the like appears in an article byline, the personal names of the members of that group may be published in the article text.  Such names are entered as collaborator names (also called investigator names) for the MEDLINE citation. 

Collaborator names are entered for a MEDLINE citation only when a group (corporate) author name is present for the citation.  Collaborator names are entered exactly as they are published in the article, and in the order in which they are published in the article.  Collaborator names are included redundantly even if they have also been included as authors for the citation (because they also appear in the byline or are explicitly identified in the article as the authors).  Collaborator names may also appear redundantly in the MEDLINE citation if they appear redundantly in the published article, such as when the collaborators are listed in the article by various subcommittees and an individual is a member of more than one subcommittee.

Example

A PubMed Abstract display of a citation that includes personal authors, group author, and a link to collaborator names:

PubMed display of a citation, showing CORGI Consortium as an author, and link to Collaborators below author list

Clicking on the above link will display the names entered as collaborators for the citation:

Expanded Collaborators list on a PubMed display

Searching for Authors, Group Authors and Collaborators in PubMed

To search for an author name, use the search tag [au]. For example,

jaeger j [au]

To search for a group (corporate) name, use the search tag [cn]. For example,

corgi consortium [cn]

To search for a collaborator (“investigator”) name, use the search tag [ir]. For example,

maher e [ir]

If a personal name is entered in a PubMed search without a search tag, all citations will be retrieved for which the name is an author or collaborator. A group author name entered without a search tag will retrieve citations with that name as an author occurrence as well as citations with the word(s) in any other field of the citation.  The search tag [cn] may be used to restrict retrieval to the group (corporate) name field, e.g., corgi [cn].

Further information about how to search for author, group author or collaborator names may be found in the “Searching by author” section of PubMed Help.

Errata

Author, group author, and collaborator names are entered for MEDLINE exactly as they are published in the journal article.  If the journal article has misprinted a name, the MEDLINE citation will only be corrected if a formal erratum notice is published in the journal.  The MEDLINE policies related to errata are detailed at:  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/errata.html.

If there is an error in MEDLINE because the author information in the MEDLINE citation does not match the author information in the published article, contact NLM Customer Service.  However, such errors should only be reported for citations tagged [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE].  Citations tagged  [PubMed - as supplied by publisher] or [PubMed - in process] have not yet completed quality assurance processing.  It may be assumed that any errors that exist will be corrected when the citation achieves final [indexed for MEDLINE] status.

For additional information, contact NLM Customer Service.

A complete list of NLM Fact Sheets is available at:

(alphabetical list) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/factsheets.html
(subject list): http://www.nlm.nih.gov/pubs/factsheets/factsubj.html

Or write to:

FACT SHEETS
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, Maryland 20894

Phone: (301) 496-6308
Fax: (301) 496-4450
email: publicinfo@nlm.nih.gov