Thinking about CRediT

CRediT Check – Should we welcome tools to differentiate the contributions made to academic papers?

Writing on the LSE Impact Blog, Lizzie Gadd makes thoughtful points about the potential consequences of the CASRAI CRediT approach to identifying researcher contributions.

Two especially important points stood out for me.

On the one hand, we need to acknowledge the reality that different roles carry different weights, that will vary depending on both disciplinary norms and the context of individual research projects:

"Assuming that CRediT are not seeking to abolish the role of author altogether and assuming they don’t believe non-author-contributors should be relegated to the acknowledgements, where presumably they’d get no formal credit at all, I’m not entirely sure where this leaves us. Are they creating a third category of research participant, slightly more than ‘acknowledgee’, but less than author? And assuming such a status could easily be incorporated into the world’s bibliographies, can someone’s contribution be assessed merely on the role name (e.g., ‘Software’) or would it need to be assessed on the level of their contribution in that role?"

While on the other hand, there needs to be real care in how different roles are rewarded and recognised:

"We are already seeing bibliometric analyses based on contributor roles. Whilst this is interesting at a ‘science of science’ level (e.g., are roles gender based?), it worries me on an individual researcher evaluation level. Are we going to see some roles prized above others? Will some roles literally ‘count’ and some roles not? And what impact will this have on those early career researchers in project administration and literature searching roles that CRediT seeks to give previously unacknowledged credit to? Will they, in another terrible fit of irony, be excluded from some forms of credit altogether?"

I must admit I have always had a level of discomfort with the CRediT approach, which I haven't been able to articulate until reading this post. The issue, as ever, is about the potential unintended consequences of well-meaning and superficially straightforward solutions. As the research community collectively considers solutions to the research culture challenge, really thinking through the potential implications of interventions is more important than ever.