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Background Disputes over authorship are increasing. This paper examines the options that researchers have in resolving authorship disputes. Discussions about authorship disputes often address how to prevent disputes but rarely address how to resolve them. Both individuals and larger research communities are harmed by the limited options for dispute resolution. Main body When authorship disputes arise after publication, most existing guidelines recommend that the authors work out the disputes between themselves. But this is unlikely to occur, because there are often large power differentials between team members, and institutions (e.g., universities, funding agencies) are unlikely to have authority over all team members. Other collaborative disciplines that deal with issues of collaborative creator credit could provide models for scientific authorship. Arbitration or mediation could provide solutions to authorship disputes where few presently exist. Because authors recognize journals’ authority to make decisions about manuscripts submitted to the journal, journals are well placed to facilitate alternative dispute resolution processes. Conclusion Rather than viewing authorship disputes as rare events that must be handled on a case by case basis, researchers and journals should view the potential for disputes as predictable, preventable, and soluble. Independent bodies that can offer alternative dispute resolution services to scientific collaborators and/or journals could quickly help research communities, particularly their most vulnerable members.

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