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Authorship of NutNet Manuscripts

NutNet is a sociological, as well as an ecological, experiment

The willingness of many scientists to cooperate and collaborate is what makes NutNet possible. Because the Network encompasses a diverse group of people from all over the globe, and relies on many data contributors to create datasets for analysis, writing scientific papers can be more challenging than with more traditional projects. We have attempted to lay out ground rules to establish a fair process for establishing authorship, and to be inclusive while not diluting the value of authorship on a manuscript. Please engage with NutNet manuscript writing process knowing you are helping to forge a new model of doing collaborative international ecology.

Overview of the NutNet authorship process

The primary goals of the NutNet authorship process are to consistently, accurately and transparently attribute the contribution of each author on the paper, to encourage participation in manuscripts by interested scientists, and to ensure that each author has made sufficient contribution to the paper to warrant authorship. 

1.  Read these authorship policies and guidelines. We also suggest reading this paper about writing a massively multi-authored paper.

2.  Consult the NutNet website ( for current proposals and active manuscripts, and contact the listed lead author on any similar proposal to minimize overlap, or to join forces.

3.  Prepare a manuscript proposal, and submit it at Your proposal should list the lead author(s), the title and abstract, and the specific types of data that you wish to use. You can also specify more detail about response and predictor variables (if appropriate), and indicate a timeline for analysis and writing.

Proposed ideas are reviewed by the authorship committee to ensure there is sufficient distinction from proposed and ongoing NutNet papers. The authorship committee may suggest altering or combining analyses and papers to resolve issues of overlap.

4.  Circulate your draft analysis and manuscript to solicit Opt-In authorship.

For network-scale analyses, the lead author should circulate the manuscript to the Network by attaching it as an email to the NutNet listserv (nutnet [at]

For sub-network-scale analyses of more limited scope (e.g. regional or taxonomic), the lead author should circulate the manuscript to network collaborators who have indicated interest at the abstract stage, those who have contributed data, and any others who the lead author deems appropriate.

In both cases, the subject line of the email should include the phrase “OPT-IN PAPER.” This email should also include a deadline by which time co-authors should respond.

The right time to share your working draft and solicit co-authors is different for each manuscript, but in general:

  • Sharing early drafts or figures allows for more effective co-author contribution. While ideally this would mean circulating the manuscript at a very early stage for opt-in to the entire network, it is acceptable and even typical to share early drafts or figures among a smaller group of ‘core authors’ before circulating to the entire network.
  • Circulating almost-complete manuscripts does not allow the opportunity for meaningful contribution from co-authors, and is discouraged.

5.  Potential co-authors should signal their intention to opt-in by responding by email to the lead author before the stated deadline.

6.  Lead authors should keep an email list of co-authors and communicate regularly about progress including sharing drafts of analyses, figures, and text as often as is productive and practical.

7.  Lead authors should circulate complete drafts among co-authors and consider comments and changes. Given the wide variety of ideas and suggestions provided on each NutNet paper, co-authors should recognize the final decisions belong to the lead author.

8.  Final manuscripts should be reviewed and approved by each co-author before submission.

9.  All authors and co-authors should fill out their contribution in the authorship rubric and attach it as supplementary material to any NutNet manuscript. Lead authors are responsible for ensuring consistency in credit given for contributions, and may alter co-author’s entries in the table to do so. An easy way to manage the author table is with an online spreadsheet.

Note that the last author position may be appropriate to assign in some cases.  For example, this would be appropriate for advisors of lead authors who are graduate students or postdocs and for papers that two people worked very closely to produce.

10. The lead author should carefully review the authorship contribution table to ensure that all authors have contributed at a level that warrants authorship and that contributions are consistently attributed among authors. Has each author made contributions in at least two areas in the authorship rubric? Did each author provide thoughtful, detailed feedback on the manuscript? Authors are encouraged to contact the NutNet authorship committee or coordinator about any confusion or conflicts.

Who should opt in?

Authorship must be earned through a substantial contribution. Traditionally, project initiation and framing, data analysis and interpretation, and manuscript preparation are all authorship-worthy contributions, and remain so for NutNet manuscripts. However, NutNet collaborators have also agreed that collaborators who lead a site from which data are being used in a paper can also opt-in as co-authors, under the following conditions: (1) the collaborator's site has contributed data that is used in the paper’s analysis; and (2) the collaborator makes additional contributions to the particular manuscript, including data analysis, writing, or editing. For co-authorship on opt-in papers, each individual must be able to check at least two boxes in the rubric, including contribution to the writing process. NutNet manuscripts will be accompanied by a supplemental table indicating authorship contributions. These guidelines apply equally to manuscripts led by graduate students.


Rubric item

Example contribution meriting a checked box

Developed and framed research question(s) Originated idea for current analysis of NutNet data; contributed significantly to framing the ideas in this analysis at early stage of manuscript
Analyzed data Generated models (conceptual, statistical and/or mathematical), figures, tables, maps, etc.; generated a Network-scale dataset being used in this manuscript’s analysis
Contributed to data analyses Provided comments, suggestions, and code for data analysis
Wrote the paper Wrote the majority of at least one of the sections of the paper
Contributed to paper writing Provided suggestions such as restructuring ideas, text and citations linking to new literature areas, copy editing
Site level coordinator Coordinated data collection, proofing, and submission of data for at least one site used in this manuscript
Network level coordinators Contributed substantially to network level activities such as management of network data, recruiting and assisting new sites, finding funding for network level management activities

Authorship committee

Current co-chairs: Andrew MacDougall (University of Guelph,, Carly Stevens (Lancaster University,, Lauren Sullivan (Michigan State University, Kellogg Biological Station,, Pedro Tognetti (University of Buenos Aires,

The authorship committee works to ensure communication across projects to avoid overlap of manuscripts, provides guidance on procedures and guidelines, and can help solve authorship disputes within the Network.


Please use this text in the acknowledgments of NutNet manuscripts:

This work was generated using data from the Nutrient Network ( experiment, funded at the site-scale by individual researchers. Coordination and data management have been supported by funding to E. Borer and E. Seabloom from the National Science Foundation Research Coordination Network (NSF-DEB-1042132) and Long Term Ecological Research (NSF-DEB-1234162 and NSF-DEB-1831944 to Cedar Creek LTER) programs, and the Institute on the Environment (DG-0001-13). We also thank the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute for hosting project data and the Institute on the Environment for hosting Network meetings. Soil analyses were supported, in part, by USDA-ARS grant 58-3098-7-007 to ETB.


Please use the following as one of your keywords on submitted manuscripts, so that NutNet work is easily indexed and searchable:

"Nutrient Network (NutNet)"