Co-Communicating Author

November 15, 2012

What is “communicating author” attribution for in your field? How is it interpreted?

(and do you note it on a CV or job application in any way?)

33 Responses to “Co-Communicating Author”

  1. miko Says:

    PI of the lab originating the study, full stop. I don’t get missing around with this… maybe it’s different in those weird patronage pyramid European organizations.

    And you’ll be pleased to know that my anecdotal experience has brought me fully on board with your anti-co-first author stance, which I’ll extend to co-corresponding.


  2. Dave Bridges Says:

    Agree, generally PI of primary lab. Some PI’s allow their trainees to be corresponding, or co-corresponding but that depends mostly on the PI.


  3. Dr24hours Says:

    In my situation, I’m corresponding author on most of my pubs, because I’m the one who understands the core thrust of the engineering of the paper. My co-authors are physicians or students who assisted me. So people looking to communicate about the engineering will want to talk to me, even if a physician is PI.


  4. Boehninglab Says:

    As noted in my string of random tweets, I allow some senior trainees to be listed as co-corresponding on papers. To put you in my universe, this is how this is treated in my subfield:

    1. Trainees RARELY get to be corresponding. I was never corresponding author until I had my own lab.

    2. Corresponding authorship has some weight in my field with regards to grants, promotion, and prestige.

    I currently have one of my post-docs as co-corresponding on ever paper he writes. He functions completely autonomously, and I truly feel he can answer queries about the paper better than I can. I feel (and others in my field) that co-corresponding means that trainee is not only ready to have his own lab, but SHOULD have his own lab. I sit on recruitment committees, and corresponding authorship holds weight (and is usually noted on the CV of the applicant if they are applying for a junior faculty position). I know this is very field specific, so take this with a grain of salt.


  5. qaz Says:

    Agree, PI in the lab.

    In my department, one is expected to note the equivalent point (in which lab the experiment/work was done) in your annual review. This has become an important issue in some promotion discussions, with some people saying “Is X the corresponding author on this paper?” meaning “Do we give X leadership credit for it?” This has been important when there is a more senior person on the paper as well. Identifying the more junior (assistant professor) person as corresponding author is a way of saying that the assistant professor is really independent and that the senior person was helping the junior rather than the other way around.

    PS. In my view (especially when arguing with postdocs about being corresponding author), the key is that the communicating (corresponding) author is the one least likely to move, and thus the one that is “easiest to get in contact with”.

    PPS. I do wish journals would include all the emails and not just that of the corresponding author, though.


  6. I honestly don’t see what’s wrong with co-corresponding authors. If it’s a paper between two labs and one lab has a mutant mouse and the other lab has a viral vector, then those two email addresses on the paper will be useful to obtain either the mouse or the virus. Kind of how it’s useful that my husband and I have separate cell phone numbers even though we live in the same house.


  7. Boehninglab Says:

    One more thing, it is usually noted on the CV by a simple asterisk . Real world example from my post-doc:

    Akimzhanov A.M.* and Boehning D. IP3R function in cells of the immune system. WIREs Membr Transp Signal 2012, 1: 329-339. doi: 10.1002/wmts.27 *Co-corresponding author.


  8. odyssey Says:

    I think that situation would be better addressed via a “Contributions” section. If a reader is not familiar with the labs of the co-CA’s, my bet is they’ll contact the last author in the list rather than dig through earlier literature to figure it out.

    Although I can certainly see Boehninglab’s point for postdocs who deserve their own labs, for the most part I view co-CA’s the same way I view co-1st authorships. In the end, only the first author really counts, as does the last for CA.


  9. miko Says:

    “I honestly don’t see what’s wrong with co-corresponding authors.”

    I think kinda like co-first… all fun and games until someone gets their feelings hurt.


  10. lylebot Says:

    In my field, addresses (email and physical) change often enough that “corresponding author” carries virtually no weight at all. I guess in my experience it has usually been the grad student that actually did the work (who is also first author), but I have barely given the whole idea a second thought since I finished my PhD. I never look at it, and I generally assume pretty much no one else does either.

    I guess maybe there’s some kind of vicious cycle: when you start putting grad students as corresponding authors the whole notion becomes meaningless, since grad student addresses are naturally transient. But PI/lead researcher addresses are pretty transient in my field too.


  11. Dave Says:

    As a postdoc, I was sole corresponding author on most of my own stuff. I was following my own direction anyway and was even paying for my own reagents for three years (but not salary) from a grant I was awarded. I was not about to hand over corresponding to my boss just because he paid my salary and provided space for me to work. If your approach to mentoring is something along the lines of “here is your lab, get on with it”, then you lose the corresponding slot in my opinion.

    The issue is this: on a resume/CV there are not many ways for you to shout “I’m not your average postdoc and I can do a lot more than simply pipette for a living”. The other way is to show independent grant support but apparently that means jack fucken shite to hiring committees.


  12. Dave Says:

    the key is that the communicating (corresponding) author is the one least likely to move, and thus the one that is “easiest to get in contact with”

    That is the most ridiculous argument for a corresponding slot I have ever heard!!!!

    The “key” is that if you have to divert all correspondence to the post-doc anyway because you don’t understand anything that is in the paper, then you do not need to be corresponding.


  13. DrugMonkey Says:

    God you people are young.

    Dave, this is a hangover from the days of no Internet and hard copy reprint requests. It made sense then. Conventions that have no reason to change….haven’t.


  14. WIC Says:

    Ah reprint requests. Who remembers filling out those little cards.


  15. AcademicLurker Says:

    Ah reprint requests. Who remembers filling out those little cards.

    This thread is making me feel old.


  16. Mizumi Says:

    If there’s even any possibility at all that this means anything to anyone, why not grant corresponding authorship to competent trainees?

    If they are going on the postdoc/TT market, trainees will need every edge they can get. Demonstrating “ownership” of a project or line of inquiry is an important requirement for any trainee going on the job market.

    By contrast, if you’re a PI established enough to have such trainees, the potential impact of this particular minutia on your CV will be comparatively smaller.


  17. Dave Says:

    Dave, this is a hangover from the days of no Internet…

    ^Does not compute.


  18. WIREs Membr Transp Signal

    This is a real journal?


  19. Crystal Voodoo Says:

    My subfield always has the PI as the corresponding author with the understanding that they will act as the hub to connect you with the person who actually knows what is going on. On the rare occasion when the CA insists on doing the correspondence you are guaranteed to spin your wheels.

    As for co-CAs my subfield is pretty technical and usually paired with something biological so the double correspondent is more useful for the downstream users. It’s practical rather than status based.


  20. qaz Says:

    I still don’t see why we need “corresponding author” anymore. Why don’t the journals just include everyone’s emails and let the person who wants to contact someone about the paper decide who the best person to contact is? There’s no (modern) reason why we need to conflate the ability to contact an author (by email) with the leadership mark (which is more complicated than in the old days anyway). [But journals have their particularities and many won’t include all emails even when asked.]


  21. another anonymous person Says:

    So that each PI who hosts a good chunk of the work in their lab and writes large chunks of the manuscript gets credit from their departments/funding agencies/P&T committees. If you don’t have that, you are going to KILL interdisciplinary work pre-tenure, because many P&T committees only “count” communicating author papers. Also, saves collaborations when you don’t have to fight over whether the 48% or 52% PI (or the “makes the unique samples” vs “contributes the unique analysis approach” PI) gets communicating author.


  22. bashir Says:

    I cannot recall ever noting or caring who the communicating author was on a manuscript. I have the internet and Google, so I can pretty easily contact any author(s) I want. I have no idea if there’s a standard in my field, it’s never come up. I think the first author has been the communicating author on all papers I’ve been involved in.


  23. arrzey Says:

    In my field, communicating author is the one who (now) deals with the editor, gets the review comments back, writes the response to reviewers, and is basically in charge of revisions. In my lab, it’s whoever owns the paper. If the point of training trainees is to teach them how to be PI’s, then they should be doing all the stuff they will do as grown-ups. If your ego requires more asterisks and superscripts on the author list, especially when it is to the detriment of your trainees, you need a hobby, like triathlons.


  24. arrzey Says:

    @ another anon “because many P&T committees only “count” communicating author papers.”

    Really? I’m chair of my dept’s RPT committee, and write lots of letters for others, and I’ve never seen anything but first/last authorship be important. I think considering last author to be as impt as first is critical – it encourages junior faculty to think about trainees who need first authorships to get post docs & jobs. Having a junior faculty who has lots of last authored papers, where the firsts are people in their lab says quite a bit about their leadership.


  25. drugmonkey Says:

    WHEEE! Isn’t it AWESOME how many firmly held and totally divergent opinions there are about the ways we credit academic performances?


  26. As an AE, I mostly use the corresponding author to know who to ask to review a similar manuscript. Although qaz’s idea of including everybody’s email would be even better. What is absolutely useless is how some journals (mostly traditional systematics/evolutionary biology journals) just give physical mail addresses for the corresponding author. In 2012!


  27. DrugMonkey Says:

    Email access in the Ituri Forest is spotty I hear…


  28. anonymous Says:

    Corresponding author is the only person who will win the nobel prize in the end…


  29. […] not letting students be corresponding or  communicating  authors, as well as Drug Monkey’s post about authorship a few weeks back made me think that some of these differences are driven by the […]


  30. I am very offended by the content of this post.


  31. drugmonkey Says:

    Isis, the quality of your commenters is slipping. I mean….I laid it on pretty thick and that fool still…..yeah.


  32. drugmonkey Says:

    Four first-authors and four *last* authors all contributing equally


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