CRediT where it is due: the Contributor Role Taxonomy for research journals

By Grant Jacobs 19/03/2015


Five years ago I wrote a piece titled Retrospective: Credits, Dis-credits and mis-credits, recycling an article I wrote for my consulting website in 2002 triggered by an article written earlier that year by Peter Lawrence about credits for research work, Rank Injustice.

Yesterday the Wellcome Trust and Digital Science announced an updated “Contributor Role Taxonomy to provide a high-level classification of the diverse roles performed by individuals in the work leading to published academic research.”

My suggestion in 2002 was a simple two-level credit idea: authors and administrators. I was concerned that too complex a collection of roles might work against a scheme identifying being taken up. (I did touch on some other forms of credit, including a colleague’s forward-looking suggestion that ‘big data’ might impact on authorship credit.)

The announcement by the Wellcome Trust and Digital Science presents the work of Project CRediT, defining 14 categories of credit covering –

Conceptualization Ideas; formulation or evolution of overarching research goals and aims.
Methodology Development or design of methodology; creation of models.
Software Programming, software development; designing computer programs; implementation of the computer code and supporting algorithms; testing of existing code components.
Validation Verification, whether as a part of the activity or separate, of the overall replication/reproducibility of results/experiments and other research outputs.
Formal Analysis Application of statistical, mathematical, computational, or other formal techniques to analyse or synthesize study data.
Investigation Conducting a research and investigation process, specifically performing the experiments, or data/evidence collection.
Resources Provision of study materials, reagents, materials, patients, laboratory samples, animals, instrumentation, computing resources, or other analysis tools.
Data Curation Management activities to annotate (produce metadata), scrub data and maintain research data (including software code, where it is necessary for interpreting the data itself) for initial use and later re-use.
Writing – Original Draft Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically writing the initial draft (including substantive translation).
Writing – Review & Editing Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work by those from the original research group, specifically critical review, commentary or revision – including pre- or post-publication stages.
Visualization Preparation, creation and/or presentation of the published work, specifically visualization/data presentation.
Supervision Oversight and leadership responsibility for the research activity planning and execution, including mentorship external to the core team.
Project Administration Management and coordination responsibility for the research activity planning and execution.
Funding Acquisition Acquisition of the financial support for the project leading to this publication.

The back-story of the project can be read on their website. A list of possible benefits is given on the project’s history pageThose involved in the project include several major scientific publishers. Publications and other activities can be found on the ‘Connections’ page.

What do researchers think? Or administrators of grant applications, potential employers, journal editors, …

Would widespread use of a scheme like this have an impact on Peter Lawrence’s and my original concerns, missed credit and ‘credit grabbing’? What about job and grant applications?


Other articles on Code for life:

Retrospective: Credits, Dis-credits and mis-credits.

External (bioinformatics) specialists: best on the grant from the onset

Developing bioinformatics methods: by who and how

Peter Lawrence’s Kafka tale of research grant funding

Retrospective–The mythology of bioinformatics