Manuscripts and Authorship Guidelines


The willingness of many scientists to cooperate and collaborate is what makes TERRA REF possible. Because the platform encompasses a diverse group of people 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 the TERRA REF manuscript writing process knowing you are helping to forge a new model of doing collaborative scientific research.

This document is based on the Nutrient Network Authorship Guidelines, and used with permission. Described in Borer, Elizabeth T., et al. "Finding generality in ecology: a model for globally distributed experiments."; Methods in Ecology and Evolution 5.1 (2014): 65-73.

Copyright, Attribution, and Conditions of Use:

We plan to quickly make data and software available for use with attribution, under CC-By 4.0, MIT compatable license, or Ft. Lauderdale Agreement as described in our Data Use Guidelines. Such data can be used with attribution (e.g. citation); co-authorship opportunities are welcome where warranted (see below) by specific contributions to the manuscript (e.g. help in interpreting data beyond technical support).

We are making data available early for users under the condition that manuscripts led within the team not be scooped. In these cases, people who wish to use the data for publication prior to official open release date of November 2018 should coordinate co-authorship with the person responsible for collecting the data.

Overview of the TERRA REF authorship process:

Inclusive but not gratuitous

Our primary goals in the TERRA REF 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.

  2. Consult the current list of manuscripts ( for current proposals and active manuscripts, contact the listed lead author on any similar proposal to minimize overlap, or to join forces. Also carefully read these guidelines.

  3. Prepare a manuscript proposal. Your proposal will list the lead author(s), the title and abstract body, and the specific data types that you will use. You can also specify more detail about response and predictor variables (if appropriate), and indicate a timeline for analysis and writing. Submit your proposal through this form.

    Proposed ideas are reviewed by the authorship committee primarily to facilitate appropriate collaborations, identify potential duplication of effort, and to support the scientists who generate data while allowing the broader research community access to data as quickly and openly as possible. 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 global analyses, the lead author should circulate the manuscript to the Network by submitting a email to the TERRA REF team.

    For analyses of more limited scope, 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 point to share your working draft and solicit co-authors is different for each manuscript, but in general:

    1. 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.

    2. circulating essentially 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 TERRA REF 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 TERRA REF 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.

    The authorship rubric provides a framework for the opt-in process. Lead authors should copy the template and edit the contents for a specific manuscript, then circulate to potential co-authors.

    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 TERRA REF PI (Mockler) or authorship committee (Jeff White, Geoff Morris, Todd Mockler, David LeBauer, Wasit Wulamu, Nadia Shakoor) about any confusion or conflicts.

Contributions Warranting Co-authorship

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 TERRA REF manuscripts. However, TERRA REF 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 collaborators' site has contributed data being used in the paper's analysis; and (2) that this collaborator makes additional contributions to the particular manuscript, including data analysis, writing, or editing. For coauthorship on opt-out papers, each individual must be able to check at least two boxes in the rubric, including contribution to the writing process. These guidelines apply equally to manuscripts led by graduate students.

Manuscripts published by TERRA REF will be accompanied by a supplemental table indicating authorship contributions. You can copy and share the authorship rubric. For opt-in papers, a co-author is expected to have at least two of the following areas checked in the authorship rubric.

rubric item

example contribution meriting a checked box

Developed and framed research question(s)

Originated idea for current analysis of TERRA REF 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.; contributed key components to the computing pipeline.

Contributed Data

generated a 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 unreleased data for at least one site used in this manuscript.

Publications committee

Members: David LeBauer, Todd Mockler, Geoff Morris, Nadia Shakoor, Jeff White, Wasit Wulamu

The publications committee ensures communication across projects to avoid overlap of manuscripts, works to provide guidance on procedures and authorship guidelines, and serves as the body of last resort for resolution of authorship disputes within the Network.


Please use the following text in the acknowledgments of TERRA REF manuscripts:

The [information / data / work] presented here is from the TERRA REF experiment, funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), U.S. Department of Energy, under Award Number DE-AR0000594. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.


Please use "TERRA REF"; as one of your keywords on submitted manuscripts, so that TERRA REF work is easily indexed and searchable.