A Short Critique of CRediT

CRediT is a system for classifying contributions to research with the goal of documenting who did what for a given publication. Ann Barcomb, formerly a Postdoc in my research group, now a professor at U of Calgary, pointed me to it.

The system may or may not be used by journals. As a long-time modeler, I have some misgivings though.

The system consists of fourteen terns, alternatingly called roles or contribution types. An example term is “data curation” and another is “software”. How are these roles? Roles are context-specific behaviors by entities (usually humans) so these terms should be “data curator” or “programmer” if these really were to be roles. Contribution types is definitely better.

The model is naturally meant to be abstract. Otherwise, it would be hard to cover all of science. To me, this feels too abstract, however; I’d prefer to be more specific and classify contributions based on research designs. I see no room for this here, though.

Then, there is no model for qualification. The contribution type “data curation” has a definition, but no scale. In the fine print I finally learned that the CRediT authors suggest using “lead”, “equal”, and “supporting” as qualifications, which makes sense. But why is this not part of the core definition? It can still be optional.

Also, all fourteen contribution types seem to be equally important. No weighting is given (which is fine by me), but also no structure or conceptual hierarchy, though you can find some specializations implied by the definitions of the fourteen types.

Finally, I was surprised to find “funding acquisition” and “resources” among the contribution types. How is such provision an intellectual contribution to the specific advancement of the state of the art by the underlying research paper?

Don’t get me wrong. I think we need such systems.

However, I wonder how easy it will be to use such a system. I think among peers, you may have a good discussion and outcome, but between manager and subordinate, as is the relationship between a professor and their Ph.D. students in Germany, I find this difficult to imagine. I think I prefer a purpose-driven system, as as I’ll explain in the next blog post.

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