Imagine that you are an astronaut aboard a space shuttle bound for the International Space Station. How would you feel if a team of undergraduate students configured the flight's trajectory? Conversely, what if a team of experts with advanced degrees and a combined 200 years of experience made the flight path? You'd want the team of experienced researchers!
Anyone is able to generate and publish online content. Freedom of speech and the press is legally protected in the U.S. Bill of Rights, but when using information to make important decisions or to develop your research, consulting authorities in the field is the best option.
Author and/or authority can be considered simultaneously or separately:
When we ask questions related to author and/or authority, we are digging deeply to discover whether or not the author and/or authority is qualified to write on the topic.
You may have noticed that many scholarly articles list more than one author. Deciding who, or who is not, listed as an author has ethical implications. Fairly assigning authorship is critically important, as all team members who make a demonstrated contribution to a work should be considered for authorship or acknowledgement.
Furthermore, when evaluating for authority, it can feel daunting to be greeted by a long list of names. Rather than looking into each individual researcher's background, look at the group as a collective. Pay particular attention to the first and last authors, to ensure that they have creditable research experience, and then skim the middle author's credentials. This will provide a snapshot of the work's authorship.
Common author designations: