My main advice in this task is that investigators discuss authorship and “credit” at the outset when projects are being planned and implemented (& as new team members come on board) so no unspoken assumptions are made that erupt at manuscript time. A short piece in Nature has some potential merit – but good heavens, I have no idea who would have the time to do this for each paper generated:
“Using a multi-criterion decision making (MCDM) approach, a group of potential co-authors decides on a set of items — such as figures, tables, text and ideas — that comprise a manuscript. They score each person’s contribution to each item as a percentage. Types of contribution vary across publications, but a group of co-authors is well placed to make judgements. As they may not always agree exactly, a range can be assigned that they can ‘agree to disagree’ on.
The group should then assess the relative importance of each item and put them in categories, in order of importance to the manuscript. For example, category A (the most important) might constitute a 15% weighting, category B 10% and category C 5%. This way, each item is given a weighting that represents its importance to the whole work. Finally, each author’s relative contribution to each item is calculated.”
Of course, this would at last explain something I see in many grant applications – the incorporation in research project timelines of 6 months of support at the end of the project period for publication …