METM18 presentation 

CRediT and me: academia’s imperfect project to standardize contributions to research articles, and one language professional’s attempts to set it straight


Valerie Matarese, Vidor, Italy 

Preannounced with fanfare in Nature,1 CRediT (Contributor Roles Taxonomy,2 version 1) was released in 2014 as a means to standardize how researchers report their contributions to published research. The taxonomy was meant to improve accountability and the assignment of credit in a modern, machine-indexable way that would facilitate data mining. Developed by representatives of US- and UK-based funders, publishers and universities, the CRediT taxonomy took form in a checklist of 14 roles for authors to select among. CRediT has been adopted by some journal publishers, including Cell Press and PLOS, and by individual journals.

In 2016, when I read the new taxonomy in detail, I discovered problems. Despite claims that CRediT did not redefine authorship, I noticed that it deviated from the concept of contributorship, wherein both authors and non-author contributors are recognized for their contributions to a research study. Indeed, contributions by language professionals were excluded from the taxonomy, which, however, permitted authors to claim credit for having “edited” a research article. It also garbled language industry terminology by referring to “substantive translation.”

Because the CRediT taxonomy was being piloted at that time by several journal publishers, I felt the urgency to suggest revisions so that any version 2 would better deal with our contributions to published research. In this talk, I will present CRediT and explain how it is used, and then relate how, after a failed attempt to involve an association of science editors, I contacted the CRediT team myself. I will tell what I learned about their choice of terminology and what this reveals about academia’s fuzzy understanding of our role in research writing. This talk will prepare editors and translators to help clients use the taxonomy, and provide insight into how academic authors decide about acknowledging writing support.

About the presenter

Valerie Matarese is an authors' editor specializing in the biomolecular sciences. Born in New York, she trained in biochemistry and cell and molecular biology at US universities and worked in research in the US and Italy prior to launching a sole proprietorship offering editing, writing and training services. Valerie served as editor of the multiauthor volume Supporting Research Writing: Roles and Challenges in Multilingual Settings (Chandos Elsevier 2013), based on a panel discussion from METM09. Her latest book is Editing Research: The Author Editing Approach to Providing Effective Support to Writers of Research Papers (Information Today 2016).

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