Could digital badges clarify the roles of co-authors?

  at AAAS Science Magazine: “Ever look at a research paper and wonder how the half-dozen or more authors contributed to the work? After all, it’s usually only the first or last author who gets all the media attention or the scientific credit when people are considered for jobs, grants, awards, and more. Some journals try to address this issue with the “authors’ contributions” sections within a paper, but a collection of science, publishing, and software groups is now developing a more modern solution—digital “badges,” assigned on publication of a paper online, that detail what each author did for the work and that the authors can link to their profiles elsewhere on the Web.

Digital badges could clarify co-authors' roles

Those organizations include publishers BioMed Central and the Public Library of Science; The Wellcome Trust research charity; software development groups Mozilla Science Lab (a group of researchers, developers, librarians, and publishers) and Digital Science (a software and technology firm); and ORCID, an effort to assign researchers digital identifiers. The collaboration presented its progress on the project at the Mozilla Festival in London that ended last week. (Mozilla is the open software community behind the Firefox browser and other programs.)
The infrastructure of the badges is still being established, with early prototypes scheduled to launch early next year, according to Amye Kenall, the journal development manager of open data initiatives and journals at BioMed Central. She envisions the badge process in the following way: Once an article is published, the publisher would alert software maintained by Mozilla to automatically set up an online form, where authors fill out roles using a detailed contributor taxonomy. After the authors have completed this, the badges would then appear next to their names on the journal article, and double-clicking on a badge would lead to the ORCID site for that particular author, where the author’s badges, integrated with their publishing record, live….
The parties behind the digital badge effort are “looking to change behavior” of scientists in the competitive dog-eat-dog world of academia by acknowledging contributions, says Kaitlin Thaney, director of Mozilla Science Lab. Amy Brand, vice president of academic and research relations and VP of North America at Digital Science, says that the collaboration believes that the badges should be optional, to accommodate old-fashioned or less tech-savvy authors. She says that the digital credentials may improve lab culture, countering situations where junior scientists are caught up in lab politics and the “star,” who didn’t do much of the actual research apart from obtaining the funding, gets to be the first author of the paper and receive the most credit. “All of this calls out for more transparency,” Brand says….”