Authorship, competing interests and artificial intelligence


The list of authors should accurately reflect who carried out the research and who wrote the article. All multi-authored papers should include an ‘Authors’ Contributions’ section at the end of the paper.

The list of authors should correspond to the following criteria (based on ICMJE guidelines). Authors must meet all 4 of these conditions:

  • substantial contributions to conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data;
  • drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content;
  • final approval of the version to be published; and
  • agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

All authors must meet these criteria for authorship and, conversely, no-one should be omitted from the list if he/she meets these criteria.

For more guidance regarding authorship, including tips on how to manage author disputes and how to avoid any unethical authorship, please read our blog.

It is a condition of publication for the submitting author to provide an Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) via the online submission system. The benefits of registering an ORCID are outlined here. Provision of ORCIDs by co-authors is strongly encouraged, but not mandatory.

Other contributors

Contributors who do not meet all of the above criteria for authorship should not be listed as authors, but they should be acknowledged. Examples include general administrative support and writing assistance. Authors must confirm the contributor’s willingness to be acknowledged.


When deciding on authorship and other contributors please consider equity, diversity and inclusion. For example, if remote fieldwork is done with scientists on the ground or with the help of other locals these should be credited. Anyone who meets the criteria for authorship or acknowledgement must be included.

Competing interests

All authors, referees and editors must declare any conflicting or competing interests relating to a given article.

Competing interests are defined as those that, through their potential influence on behaviour or content or from perception of such potential influences, could undermine the objectivity, integrity or perceived value of publication.

They may include:

  • Employment – recent, current and anticipated by any organisation that may gain or lose financially through publication
  • Sources of funding – research support by any organisation that may gain or lose financially through publication
  • Personal financial interests –  stocks and shares in companies that may gain or lose financially through publication; consultation fees or other forms of remuneration from organisations that may gain or lose financially; patents or patent applications whose value may be affected by publication
  • Membership of relevant organisations
  • Having a personal relationship with any of the authors (if you are an editor or referee) or an editor, including a guest editor of a theme issue or special feature (if you are an author)
  • Working or having recently worked in the same institution or department as any of the authors (if you are an editor or referee)
  • Having recently (eg in the past 3 years) been a supervisor, mentor, mentee, close collaborator or joint grant holder with any of the authors.

All manuscripts must include a competing interests section. Please see our author guidelines.

Referees are asked to declare their competing interests when returning their report on a paper.

If an editor has a competing or conflicting interest preventing them from making an unbiased decision on a manuscript then the editorial office will send the manuscript to an alternative editor for assessment.

Use of Artificial intelligence (AI) and AI-assisted technologies

Artificial intelligence (AI) is software used by computers to mimic aspects of human intelligence.

AI-assisted technologies are software applications that use artificial intelligence algorithms to perform specific tasks and solve problems. 

Machine learning is an application of AI that enables systems to learn and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed.

Authors must disclose in the manuscript their use and a statement will be required in the published work. The statement should provide detail of which elements of the work were generated by AI and AI-assisted technologies. Editors and reviewers will judge if its use is appropriate. Published articles in which the use of such technologies is subsequently discovered may be retracted. Research articles on the topic of AI (but which do not contain AI-generated content) are not within the scope of this policy.

Where used in the writing process, these technologies should only be used to improve readability and language of the work. Use of AI in language editing must be declared. They may be used as a ‘search engine’ e.g., to aid identification of suitable code or statistical techniques. Use of AI to predict 3D protein structures is another example of legitimate use.

They must not replace key researcher tasks such as producing scientific insights, analysing and interpreting data or drawing scientific conclusions.

In addition:

  • Such systems must not plagiarize, misrepresent, or falsify content.  
  • The resulting work in its totality must be an accurate representation of the authors’ underlying work and novel intellectual contributions and is not primarily the result of the tool’s generative capabilities.
  • It is recognised that these technologies can produce unpredicted outcomes (e.g., references which do not exist), the authors accept responsibility for the veracity and correctness of all material in their work, including any computer-generated material.

Authors must not list AI and AI-assisted technologies as an author or co-author, nor cite AI as an author. Authorship implies responsibilities and tasks that can only be attributed to and performed by humans. Authors are also responsible for ensuring that the work is original, that the stated authors qualify for authorship, and the work does not infringe third party rights, and should familiarize themselves with our publishing policies.

Sources of funding

Funding received for the work described in the paper or for the publication itself, for all authors, must be declared within the publication. Examples of funding are:

  • Research funds – the source and any grant numbers should be included in a funding section at the end of the paper
  • Funding of the article processing charge for an open access article – this should be included in the acknowledgements section
  • Funding for writing, language editing or editorial assistance – this should be included in the acknowledgements section.