Policies and Procedures Regarding Authorship of Species Accounts

Birds of the World (BOW) species accounts are living documents that can be updated more regularly between major revisions. This document outlines policies and procedures recommended by the American Ornithological Society’s BOW Advisory Committee (formerly AOS-Birds of North America Liaison Committee) for both the revision of accounts and the authorship of either full or partial revisions, as well as guidelines for citation.

Archiving and recording of changes

The nature of living documents is that they can be regularly updated to correct errors and add new information. To ensure that citations of the account can be tied to a particular version of the account, each account reversion is given a “version number” along with a unique DOI (digital object identifier), which should be cited as in the following example:

Smith, S. R. (2014). Desert Blue Wren (Troglodytes cerulean), version 1.0. In The Birds of the World (P. Rodewald, T. Schulenberg, S. Billerman, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

DOI: 10.2173/BOW.1122

The initial account that appears in Birds of the World account will be considered version 1.0, and the first full revision of the account would be version 2.0. Following the protocol for assigning version numbers to software, only the “minor” number of the version would change (e.g., from 2.0 to 2.1) in the event of more limited revision. Such a revision, henceforth called  “partial revision,” is one that does not involve an update of the entire account but does involve material that might be cited by a user.

Examples of partial revisions include text modifications beyond minor edits, additional information from one or a few new publications, or an update of media (e.g., range maps, images, media captions, sounds, video), etc. Partial revisions would also include revisions of a single page (e.g., the Appearance page, or the Systematics page) within the account or of one or more major sections within a page (e.g., the Molts and Plumages sections on the Appearance page).

There likely would also be a change in the minor number in the event of a change in a species’ name (common or scientific), as this would change the recommended citation for the account and necessitate changes to the Systematics page. Note: certain taxonomic changes will require changes to multiple pages (e.g., Introduction, Systematics, Distribution, Appearance, Conservation) as well as the account media and hence could trigger a full revision of the account and a change in major version number.

The major version number would change (e.g., 2.2 to 3.0) when there is a full revision involving assessment and updating of the entire account.

Version numbers would not change when BOW editors or authors correct typos, update links, or make other minor edits or changes that do not alter material citable by a user. This includes limited additions or replacement of media (e.g., a few images or sounds) or changes in eBird-related products, such as STEM migration maps, BirdVis habitat analysis tool, and eBird occurrence maps (‘purple map’) which are updated on a daily basis.

Each account will display an Account History page that will archive updates and author contributions and provide a record of each of the original sources that comprise a BOW species account (including, if applicable, all previous versions that were in the form of Birds of North America [BNA] accounts). For each version of the account, the record will provide in a standard form: 1) a version number (be it of preceding BOW or BNA version[s] of the account), (2) a brief description of revisions made since the previous version and indicating (as appropriate) names of important contributors not included in the citation as authors, 3) the recommended citation for the revision, and 4) a link for accessing that version.


General authorship policies

All authors who have contributed significant content to a BOW account will be reflected in the author line, generally in the order of cumulative contribution, unless the author team and editors mutually decide otherwise.

Since each BOW account is derived from one or more source publications, the original authors associated with each source account will be retained in the BOW version 1.0 citation inasmuch as the content they authored is still included in that version of the BOW account and justifies coauthorship.

Some revisions will carry over extensive contributions from the previous version, and if the main author(s) of that material did not participate in the current revision, the authors should still include appropriate former authors’ names among their own in the citation, and possibly retain their predecessors as the lead authors if warranted by cumulative contribution. Authors who are deceased should be maintained as coauthors on the revised account, assuming their contributions remain in the revised account.


Authorship policies for account revisions

To ensure fair and appropriate recognition of contributors, and consistency of treatment over the years, the BOW editorial staff will adhere to the following guidelines to the extent possible:

When a revision of an account formerly covered by Birds of North America (BNA) or Neotropical Birds (NB) is contemplated, BOW editors will make all reasonable efforts to inform the original authors of the need for revision to their account and will ask if they wish to be involved in the revision. Original authors of former BNA accounts will be contacted (inasmuch as contact information is available) at least twice, but if said authors do not respond, BOW editors will proceed with securing other candidates for the revision.

It is the prerogative of the BOW editors to appoint an author team and designate the lead author of any revision. The editors typically will invite previous authors to participate and lead a revision, whenever such individuals are still suitable as authors (e.g., have recently conducted research on the species, have maintained a current understanding of the literature of their species, or remain engaged in avian science). Rarely, a previous author who did a poor job, was extremely tardy in completing the task, or was unreasonable to work with will not be invited to revise an account. This decision is at the sole discretion of BOW editors. When a new individual is asked to take the lead, this will almost always be because they have significant recent experience working on the species, or because previous authors have not responded to repeat attempts to contact, or are otherwise unwilling, unsuitable, or unable to participate.

In all situations, the rationale for any additions to, or changes in, authorship should be communicated to authors of the previous versions of the account by the BOW editors, inasmuch as possible. The editors will make a minimum of two attempts to communicate any such changes to all relevant parties, after which the editors will proceed.

Suitable account authors, and/or subject matter experts who are not involved in a revision will be invited to review the account and make comments and suggestions on the revision before publication when the editors feel this is advised.

Author sequence for a revision

All authors involved in revising an account should agree early on as to the sequence of their names in what will be the recommended citation for the account (which appears at the bottom of each account page). Normally the sequence of authors should reflect the relative cumulative contribution of each author to the overall BOW account across versions, ordered from most to least. The BOW editors may suggest a sequence, but a different sequence can be suggested by the authors if they agree among themselves. As work on a revision progresses, the agreed-upon author order may need to be adjusted to reflect actual relative effort. In the event of a disagreement between authors on the order of authorship, the editors will arbitrate in consultation with all individuals. The editors will endeavor to ensure that criteria used in determining order of authorship are applied consistently across accounts.

Individual authors may occasionally be dropped from the author list, either by their own request or if the editors determine that too few of that person’s contributions remain in the current version. In the event that unpublished data gathered by, or observations made by, such an individual are carried over to the new account, the previous account should be cited as the source of that material as one would any other publication and, if possible, the individual involved specifically acknowledged. For example, if Anderson is no longer an author but some of Anderson’s unpublished data are still being used in the new account, the source of these data would be acknowledged as follows in the text: “Anderson in Jones and Anderson 1998” where Jones and Anderson 1998 is the previous version of the account. In such an instance, that previous author’s contributions will also be preserved in the Account History but can also be noted by comment in the Acknowledgements.

Because account introductions often reflect an author’s personal take on the species, rather than a summary of facts, the Introduction page should be substantially rewritten by revising authors if the original writer is no longer an author. Modification could take the form of complete rewrite or might include some of the original material along with citation of the version from which it came.


Authorship policies regarding contributors

When an account is to undergo a revision, the editors will discuss with authors options for preparing particular pages of the account (or sections thereof) that generally require some specific knowledge and expertise.

BOW editors strive to maintain consistency from account to account, and as such, certain conventions must be followed – and certain language must be used, especially with regards to systematics/taxonomy, molts/plumages, and the structure/organization of vocal output. To ensure a standard treatment of such sections, BOW editors can assign contributor contributors (some of whom are on the BOW staff) with expert knowledge to revise, or assist in the revision, of specific pages or sections of an account (such as Systematics, Demography and Populations, Sounds, and Appearance: Plumages, Molts, Bare Parts). In situations where editors have the appropriate expertise, they may also assist in revising aspects of the account themselves.

Authors essentially have three options when it comes to these pages.

  • First, authors can opt to prepare the material themselves but must inform the BOW editors of their intent to do so at or shortly after the time they agree to undertake a revision. In this situation, the relevant BOW contributor may review what the authors prepare, edit as necessary to conform to BOW conventions, and may suggest changes or additions to content. In the event of a disagreement as to content between a contributor and an account’s main authors, the BOW editors will arbitrate.
  • Second, authors can request to collaborate with the BOW contributor during the preparation of the content. The details of such collaborative efforts must be worked out early in the revision process.
  • The third (and most commonly chosen) option is for authors to agree to have the BOW contributor prepare the material in question, after which, authors will review what has been written and make any suggestions for improvement. Again, BOW editors will arbitrate if there is some dispute on content.

On occasion, there may be an immediate need to revise certain parts of an account (e.g., when there are changes in a species’ taxonomy). The editors will consult with the authors when this situation arises. Typically, the editors will make the required changes themselves or ask a contributor to do so, but in certain situations authors may do the revision. Authors will always be asked to review any changes to an account before an update is published.

The credit given to BOW contributor (or any other individual) asked to revise a specific page or section of the account should reflect the level of effort and contribution to the account as a whole, and will be considered case-by-case by a BOW editor, who will arbitrate in consultation with the main authors. For example, if the contribution by a contributor is limited to reviewing the text produced by account authors and suggesting minor revisions, this likely would result only in this contributor being mentioned in the Acknowledgements.

Contributors who make substantial revisions to one or more pages may be included as full authors on the overall account, should a BOW editor find their contribution to be equal or greater than that of other authors of the account. BOW editors will discuss any such additions to the author line with the original authors. In the event of a disagreement, the BOW editors have final say.

The team of primary authors can also agree to request that a contributor or set of contributors be added as primary authors to an account. This would be appropriate, for example, when an account already has multiple primary authors, some of which themselves made relatively small contributions to the account on par with the contributions made by contributor.

Contributors who make substantial revisions to one or more pages that still fall below the threshold of full authorship can be given an authorship line on an individual page. Such authorship would have its own citation. For example, imagine a hypothetical account for the Desert Blue Wren authored by Smith, Lazooly, and Driland. Recent research necessitates a revision to the Systematics page of the account, which was originally written by Lazooly. Rodriguez, a systematics contributor, prepares much of the Systematics page with notable input from account author Lazooly. The other primary authors on the account may have reviewed the revision but were otherwise not involved. The recommended citation for this page would be as follows:

Rodriguez, C. and T. P. Lazooly (2018). Systematics. In: Smith, S. R., T. P. Lazooly, and E. R. Driland. Desert Blue Wren (Thyrothorus cerulean), version 2.1. The Birds of the World (P. Rodewald, T. Schulenberg, S. Billerman, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Typically, contributors will be lead authors on sections. However, order of authorship should reflect the level of effort and contribution to the section as a whole. In cases where one or more main authors have made substantial contributions to a section, they may be lead authors. Main authors are responsible for suggesting the appropriate order of authorship for such sections. If a contributor disagrees, and an agreement cannot be reached, the BOW editors will arbitrate in consultation with all authors. As in all situations where a decision on order of authorship must be made, the editors will make every effort to be consistent from account to account in the criteria that they use.