Primary Corresponding Author

Primary corresponding authors are often identified in submission and production systems, and that info is used for many purposes, including read & publish deal billing, proof delivery, etc. In the final version of an article, if multiple authors are tagged for correspondence using @corresp="yes" it becomes impossible to identify the *primary* corresponding author. As read & publish deal eligibility based on the primary corresponding author's affiliation grows in use, reporting via JATS on platforms like the OA Switchboard becomes increasingly inaccurate. Same goes for JATS XML ingested by Dimensions, CHORUS, etc. So it's becoming increasingly important to distinguish the primary CA.

On the JATS listserve, Nikos suggested tagging: . Of course, it would be very helpful for such tagging to be somewhat of a standard practice so that any organization using the XML knows what to look for. Perhaps this can be incorporated into the JATS4R Authors and affiliations recommendation.


  1. This is a good suggestion. I have also encountered this problem.

    First, I’d like to clarify some terminology as there are at least two concerns at play here:

    Specifying the significance of an author’s contribution. Mostly commonly, this is expressed via author order (i.e. the most important author is first, second most important is second, and so on). In my experience, authors care a great deal about this.
    Specifying the corresponding author. This is the author who will be handling the administrative tasks related to peer review (e.g. communicating with the journal, submitting R&Rs, etc) and production (e.g. reviewing proofs, paying APCs, etc).

    Often the first author (i.e. the most significant) is also the corresponding author. But, this is not always the case.

    Based my experience, I think the language of “Primary Corresponding” might rub folks the wrong way. Specifically, some authors will see the word “primary” and assume the term relates to significance of contribution (i.e. point 1) and not merely corresponding-ness (i.e. point 2). Off the cuff, I think “main corresponding” or even “preferred corresponding” would be less likely to offend sensitive authors. (I know this may sound silly. But, again in my experience, authors can be very touchy about this.)

    All that said, I have a related question, “What is the case for ever having more than one corresponding author?” I’m sure there are many JATS files in the wild which have multiple corresponding authors listed (so if you’re mining data or whatever, you must contend with that reality). But is it a good idea? In my opinion, this option only serves to create confusion (for the reasons robodonnell listed).

    If I were JATS king (which clearly should have been my username), I would only allow there to be one corresp author. But maybe there are important / legitimate use case of which I am not aware.

    1. Hi @coryschires (AKA JATSKing) – thanks for your support on this request. I really appreciate your concerns about rubbing authors the wrong way, but I don’t see “primary” as much different from “main”, and “preferred” seems a little too vague for the purpose of identifying the person who is responsible for all of the things you mention, as well as having the direct link to read & publish deals (in most cases that I’ve seen, including our own agreements). In the end, I don’t care too much about value of the attribute, but suggested “primary” because that’s what we’ve used internally for the past few years, and there have been no author complaints. Please also note that although this value would be used in JATS and metadata, I don’t envision using it for display purposes, but perhaps you do.

      Regarding the idea of disallowing more than one CA in JATS, that would be a bit limiting. We get requests for multiple CAs very often and have found it to be something that some authors feel very strongly about. So, years back we decided to allow it in order to keep authors happy, which is always important.

      Hopefully we can get enough support for this idea to get it going, and then the precise tagging decided on by a committee.


  2. @robodonnell

    this value would be used in JATS and metadata, I don’t envision using it for display purposes

    I think this is a strong point and allays most of my concerns around terminology. We also would also probably only include it in our JATS XML. And, in my experience, authors care very little about the JATS (sadly!).

    We get requests for multiple CAs very often and have found it to be something that some authors feel very strongly about.

    Currently, we only allow a single corresponding author. We have not had requests for multiple, but perhaps it’s only a matter of time.

    Regardless, I would like to see the concept of “primary corresponding” added as it will be helpful when authors do insist we support this behavior.

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