• IPAC

Authorship policy

Authorship of scientific posters and papers can be a sticky issue. Not too long ago, an Ethics Statement was formally adopted by the American Astronomical Society (AAS). The following spells out the authorship policies we expect all participants in NITARP (scientists, teachers, and students) to adopt. Please note that it is not appropriate to take work done by the whole team and present it as a single- or two-author science fair project or AAS poster.

  1. It is the expectation that each team will present at least one science poster and at least one education poster on the work from this project. More are ok too, this year or in the future!
  2. All of the original team members, teachers plus mentor scientist(s), should be invited to be authors on any posters or research journal articles coming out of this communal team work (there is more below on programs that emerge out of the original work). For these original team projects, in common terms, every team member should have the "right of refusal," e.g., they are by default included and are only dropped if they ask to be dropped. This original team worked hard to come up with the idea, and even if their contributions to the data analysis are small, the proposal would not have been accepted without their contributions. Each team member may also ask to include the students who in their opinion contributed significantly to the work being presented (not just attended class or meetings in which the project was discussed).
  3. Any poster abstracts submitted to the AAS should be distributed to all of the team members a minimum of 24 hours before the abstract deadline. Preferably, all authors should be involved in the drafting of the poster itself. No posters should just suddenly "show up" at an AAS meeting, with or without everyone's name attached.
  4. Traditionally, the list of authors is organized in the order of size of contribution to the work. If everyone contributed equally, alphabetical order is fine. In the case of these projects, where there are likely to be many authors, it is just fine to list teachers in this order, but then have the students listed near their teacher, e.g., Teacher1, Student1.1, Student1.2 (school), Teacher2, Student2.1 (school), Teacher3, Student3.1, Student3.2, Student3.3 (school), etc.
  5. It is usually expected that teachers will be the leading authors of both the science and education posters. You can add as many students as contributed (see above).
  6. To be blunt, your mentor scientist does not usually get much tangible out of this collaboration. They do this because it's fun. One tangible thing they do get is authorship of posters. Even on the educational abstracts, throw them a bone and add them in somewhere in the list. Most likely, they contributed to your educational experience in some way.
  7. Scientists are usually members of the AAS, and thus can present at AAS meetings without a member endorsement. There is an "educator membership" option in the AAS tier of memberships, and as such, some teachers can also present without a member endorsement. However, teachers who are not members must have a member endorser. Those member endorsers should be listed on the poster abstracts (even the education ones), as per AAS policy. It is expected that the 'member endorser' will be the mentor scientist for the project, if needed.
  8. AAS posters on work that has been done primarily by students should also carry the list of authors who contributed to the project either in concept or in execution. This need not be the entire team of teachers; consult with your scientist or the NITARP management for guidance if needed. In any case, there should be no single-author student posters, since all students had help, at least from their own teacher if not actually their scientist too. Particularly if the scientist's name is to be included, the abstract and poster must be submitted to the scientist for their review at least 5 days before the deadline (or the start of the conference). Note that science fair projects should not be based on team work unless the entire team (teachers, students, scientists) can be included on the science fair entry. (Note that this is generally not permitted by science fair rules!)
  9. Authorship policies for science fairs and TLRBSE journal articles (or other school or student journals) are understandably different. Science is collaborative, but we do understand that there are additional restrictions and externally-imposed expectations when it comes to these kinds of events, and single-author (or few-author) papers are expected in these cases. To be fair to the contribution of others on the team: (a) work submitted as a science fair project should not entirely be NITARP group work, but should be work done by the student(s) separately from the NITARP team, e.g., inspired by the tools or techniques or science done by the entire NITARP team; and (b) these science fair papers should include at least an acknowledgment of the contributions of the rest of the team, even if it is, for example, "The basic data reduction techniques used here were learned as part of the NASA/IPAC Teacher Archive Research Program (NITARP), 2010 class" or something else appropriate to your situation indicating you were not working in a vacuum.
  10. Authorship policies for refereed journal articles are yet another case. It is generally expected that a scientist will lead authorship of those papers. Teachers should be included in the author list. It is not expected that many students will necessarily be included on the author list, unless they made substantial contributions to the data and analysis actually being presented. A complete list of students who participated in the program can be included as part of the acknowledgments.
  11. Science is an ongoing process, and it may be that the original team project inspires more work by subgroups or all of of the original team. In those cases, AAS posters need not include the entire original team unless you feel that the entire team contributed. It should, however, include all people who contributed to the project either in concept or in execution. If the first author is an AAS member, then they can present at an AAS meeting without further approval (from the AAS or NITARP). If the first author is not an AAS member, then they need a member endorser, and as per AAS policy, that member endorser should appear as a co-author on the poster. Either way, as a courtesy, we ask that the presenters at least notify their original team scientist early in the process so that the scientist can look for obvious errors in the project. If the team scientist is the member endorser, then he or she should be heavily involved in the abstract and poster writing process, since his or her name is explicitly on the abstract.


We're back from the Jan 2024 AAS and we had a grand time!