Higher Education Research and Development Society (HERDSA)
Research intensive universities recognise that the research conducted by Research Higher Degree (RHD) students contributes importantly to the institution’s research profile and overall research effort. Typically, students are encouraged and keen to publish their thesis results to lay a solid foundation for a successful research career. However, the pathway to research publication can be fraught with danger for the unsuspecting student, with many student/supervisor relationships permanently damaged by authorship disputes. This paper will explore the publishing experience of several RHD students and some of the authorship dilemmas they faced when discussing authorship of their thesis publications with their supervisors. These students shared their personal stories with the author during authorship management training held with RHD students from education and social science disciplines at The University of Queensland in March 2008. The stories shared by these students are not unique to these disciplines, with similar stories also shared by students and early career researchers from the biological, health and medical sciences during other training sessions.
In addition to collecting information on the students’ publishing experience, the effectiveness of the authorship management training was evaluated using pre- and post- test questionnaires. Underpinning the training sessions were the institution’s publishing and authorship policy and the Revision of the Joint NHMRC/AVCC Statement and Guidelines on Research Practice: Australian code for the responsible conduct of research (National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and Universities Australia, 2007). It was clear from these sessions, and others held by the author during 2007 and 2008, that both students and academic researchers are unaware that institutional and national policies exist to promote ethical practices in authorship assignment, and that institutions are potentially not delivering on their claim that they produce graduates with a full ‘appreciation of the ethical issues involved in the conduct of research generally’ (Department of Education, Science and Training).