The policy outlined on this page applies to Nature journals (those with the word "Nature" in their title). NPG publishes many other journals, each of which has separate publication policies described on its website. A current list of these journals, with links to each journal's homepage is available.
Nature journals' authorship policy
Being an author
The Nature journals do not require all authors of a research paper to sign the letter of submission, nor do they impose an order on the list of authors. Submission to a Nature journal is taken by the journal to mean that all the listed authors have agreed all of the contents. The corresponding (submitting) author is responsible for having ensured that this agreement has been reached, and for managing all communication between the journal and all co-authors, before and after publication. Any changes to the author list after submission, such as a change in the order of the authors, or the deletion or addition of authors, needs to be approved by a signed letter from every author.
Responsibilities of senior team members on multi-group collaborations
The editors at the Nature journals assume that at least one member of each collaboration, usually the most senior member of each submitting group or team, has accepted responsibility for the contributions to the manuscript from that team. This responsibility includes, but is not limited to: (1) ensuring that original data upon which the submission is based is preserved and retrievable for reanalysis; (2) approving data presentation as representative of the original data; and (3) foreseeing and minimizing obstacles to the sharing of data, materials, algorithms or reagents described in the work.
Author contributions statements
Authors are required to include a statement of responsibility in the manuscript that specifies the contribution of every author. The level of detail varies; some disciplines produce manuscripts that comprise discrete efforts readily articulated in detail, whereas other fields operate as group efforts at all stages. A Nature Editorial describing this policy in more detail, 'Author Contributions', is included in the list of links at the foot of this page. Examples of published "author contributions" statements can be seen at this Nautilus post. Nature journals also allow two coauthors to be specified as having contributed equally to the work being described (most often used for co-first authors), but prefer authors to use the "author contributions" style for reader clarity.
Corresponding author - prepublication responsibilities
The corresponding (submitting) author is solely responsible for communicating with the journal and with managing communication between coauthors. Before submission, the corresponding author ensures that all authors are included in the author list, its order has been agreed by all authors, and that all authors are aware that the paper was submitted.
After acceptance, the proof is sent to the corresponding author, who circulates it to all coauthors and deals with the journal on their behalf; the journal will not necessarily correct errors after publication if they result from errors that were present on a proof that was not shown to coauthors before publication. The corresponding author is responsible for the accuracy of all content in the proof, in particular that names of coauthors are present and correctly spelled, and that addresses and affiliations are current.
Corresponding author - responsibilities after publication
The journal regards the corresponding author as the point of contact for queries about the published paper. It is this author's responsibility to inform all coauthors of matters arising and to ensure such matters are dealt with promptly. This author does not have to be the senior author of the paper or the author who actually supplies materials; this author's role is to ensure enquiries are answered promptly on behalf of all the co-authors. The name and e-mail address of this author (on large collaborations there may be two) is published in the paper.
Correcting the record
Authors of published material have a responsibility to inform the journal promptly if they become aware of any part that requires correcting. Any published correction requires the consent of all coauthors, so time is saved if requests for corrections are accompanied by signed agreement by all authors (in the form of a scanned attachment to an email).
A confidential process
Nature journal editors treat the submitted manuscript and all communication with authors and referees as confidential. Authors must also treat communication with the journal as confidential: correspondence with the journal, reviewers' reports and other confidential material must not be posted on any website or otherwise publicized without prior permission from the editors, whether or not the submission is eventually published. Our policies about posting preprints and postprints, and about previous communication of the work at conferences or as part of a personal blog or of an academic thesis, are described at the section of this guide about confidentiality policies.
Authors are welcome to suggest suitable independent reviewers when they submit their manuscripts, but these suggestions may not be followed by the journal. Authors may also request the journal to exclude a few (usually not more than two) individuals or laboratories. The journal sympathetically considers such exclusion requests and usually honours them, but the editor's decision on the choice of peer-reviewers is final.
Nature journal editorials on authorship:
Nature Nanotechnology: The responsibilities of authors (June 2009).
Nature Cell Biology: Attribution and accountability (June 2009).
Nature Physics: What did you do? (June 2009). Announcing "author contributions" statements.
Nature: Who is accountable? (1 November 2007). Comments on this editorial are welcome at Natuilus blog.
Nature Neuroscience: How experts communicate
Nature Materials: Authorship without authorization
Nature Cell Biology: Contributing transparency
Nature: Author contributions
The entire guide for Editorial Policies is available in PDF format.