SDSS Scientific and Technical Publication Policy

2003 October 31

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Types of Papers
  3. Publication Coordinators
  4. Participants
  5. Builders
  6. Key Projects
  7. Authorship
  8. The Publication Process
  9. Page Charges

1. Introduction

This document describes the policies and guidelines governing the publication of scientific and technical results from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (hereafter SDSS). The SDSS Publication Policy is designed to promote the scientific and technical accuracy of SDSS publications and ensure that fair credit is given to the authors and to other individuals who have contributed to the SDSS. In addition, SDSS participants should be encouraged to carry out excellent science with the database and to publish their results in a timely manner. By agreeing collectively on how publication issues will be handled, we aim to minimize future disagreement among SDSS participants. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, this document applies to publications based on data taken with the SDSS telescopes which are not yet in the public domain, including both the Northern and the Southern survey data, as well as data taken with the survey equipment during or before the test year.

This policy applies to: papers submitted to electronic archives and refereed journals; scientific or technical books or book sections about the SDSS and its results; graphical or tabular materials or discussions of results, in electronic or hard-copy form, that are based on analysis of unreleased SDSS data and are generally accessible to non-SDSS participants (e.g., via a public WWW site or a publicly distributed preprint). The special cases of conference presentations, conference proceedings papers, and theses are discussed in Section 8. Communications which are not directly covered by this document, but the dissemination of which should be consistent with it, include: popular articles and books, circulars, telegrams, electronic announcements, press releases, and press conferences.

Responsibility for oversight of SDSS publications rests with the SDSS Scientific Spokesperson. The SDSS Collaboration Council (hereafter CoCo), which serves as an advisory body to the Spokesperson, has been charged with formulating this Publication policy and ensuring that it is efficiently implemented to the benefit of the collaboration. Each SDSS Participating Institution (including the five participating ARC institutions and the non-ARC institutions participating through MOUs) is represented on the Collaboration Council; in addition, there is one representative for those SDSS participants not at participating institutions.

As the Survey progresses, the Spokesperson may revise this Publication Policy from time to time in what he or she perceives to be the best interests of (and in consultation with) the collaboration.

2. Types of Papers

We distinguish three types of publication: "scientific papers", "technical papers", and "data release papers". Scientific papers are based on analyses of, or presentations of, the SDSS data. Technical papers describe the SDSS instrumentation, calibration, software, strategy, and targeting algorithms. Technical papers may include some SDSS data for illustrative purposes. Data release papers describe the contents of SDSS data releases to the public.

3. Publication Coordinators

Logistical responsibility for handling scientific, technical, and data release papers will rest with the Scientific Publications Coordinator (SPC), Technical Publications Coordinator (TPC), and Scientific Spokesperson, respectively. Unresolved disputes about publication matters will be settled by an Ombudsperson. The SPC, TPC, and Ombudsperson are appointed by the Scientific Spokesperson in consultation with the Management Committee.

The Publications Coordinators will ensure that publications follow the publication process outlined in Section 8 below. To aid in this process, they will maintain a common electronic WWW-based archive of all scientific, technical, and data release publications of the SDSS, hereafter the Publications Archive, with accompanying graphical and tabular material. The Publications Archive shall be accessible to the participants only. The Publications Archive will contain the following proprietary information and links to public documents:

  1. projects under investigation or in preparation
  2. papers available for review by the collaboration
  3. papers approved for public distribution and journal submission
  4. other SDSS documents of general interest, such as related papers by SDSS participants not based upon SDSS data, common proposals (e.g., the SDSS Project Book), etc.
  5. the SDSS acknowledgement script required on publications (Sec. 8.5)
  6. the current list of SDSS builders and participants (Sects. 4,5)
  7. the current version of this Publication Policy.
The papers in this archive that have been approved for distribution may be used by any SDSS participant for purposes of public presentation, review articles, etc.

The Scientific Spokesperson will have overall responsibility for the Publications Archive. The TPC will maintain a complete list of technical publications describing the hardware, software, etc on the Publications Archive. The SPC is responsible for assuring that all SDSS papers (scientific, technical, and data release) reference the appropriate technical papers. The TPC will help coordinate publication of these technical papers to ensure that technical documentation of the project is disseminated efficiently and promptly. The Scientific Spokesperson will coordinate the publication of the data release papers.

4. Participants

Participants are defined by Sec.4.1 of the PoO. An updated list of participants shall be maintained by the Spokesperson, with input from the participating institutions. All participants must read and agree to the contents of this document before accessing the SDSS data. All participants must follow the rules of authorship and publication described in this document. Those who violate these rules are subject to losing their participant status, by the procedures set out in the PoO.

The Spokesperson will keep the list of participants up-to-date and posted on the Publication Archive.

4.1 Non-Participants

According to Sec.4.2 of the PoO, non-Participants may request access to limited portions of the SDSS data archive for work in collaboration with Participants. The policy regarding use of proprietary SDSS data by non-participants can be found in Procedures for Early Collaborative Use of SDSS Data with Non-Participants. Once granted limited data access, non-participants must read and agree to the contents of this document and follow the rules described herein. Non-participants violating these rules are subject to losing their data access.

5. Builders

In order to ensure that proper credit is given to those who were responsible for the construction and maintenance of the hardware, software, and other infrastructure of the SDSS, a list of "builders" will be maintained by the Spokesperson and posted on the Publication Archive. Each builder will have the automatic right to co-authorship on every SDSS scientific and data release paper.

5.1 Construction of the builder list

Builders are those who have made substantial contributions to the SDSS hardware and software as a whole, including (but not limited to) the areas of optics, telescope, infrastructure, calibration, camera, spectrographs, data reduction and archiving software, commissioning, management, and major fundraising. The definition of "substantial contribution" is work equivalent to two years at full time.

Since the major SDSS components have been the responsibility of individual SDSS institutions, each institution, through its Collaboration Council representative, shall put together a list of the persons considered to be qualified, including those who have moved to other institutions, along with a brief summary of the contribution of each individual to the project. The justification for each individual's inclusion in the lists should be spelled out specifically as a description of her or his direct contribution. The justification must extend beyond merely being on the SDSS payroll, or being a member of a Working Group, for the appropriate length of time.

The Collaboration Council shall concatenate the individual institution lists, add those who have earned builder status at non-SDSS institutions, and forward the combined list to the Spokesperson for approval by the SDSS Director. It is anticipated that approval by the Director will in most cases be pro forma. However, the Director will remove suggested names if those persons do not meet the criteria described above, and may request documentation and justification for possibly deserving persons who are not on the lists. The Director may also request additional information for those on the lists where clarification is needed. The Director will notify builders of their selection.

The Scientific Spokesperson will keep the builder list up-to-date and posted to the Collaboration web page on

Some individuals may not be included on the list generated by their institution, but who believe that they merit inclusion. Such individuals should request inclusion from their institution. If their request is denied, they may state their case in writing to the Management Committee, whose decision will be final.

Since individuals become members of the above lists by dint of work already performed, they cannot be removed unless they explicitly request removal. Builders remain on the builder list when they leave an SDSS institution, and even in the unlikely event that they commit sufficient infractions to have their data rights revoked.

6. Key Projects

The science projects deemed central to the SDSS are the Key Projects. Key Projects are organized by the Working Groups (WGs). The responsibilities of the WGs, WG chairs, and Key Project teams are spelled out in sections 2.9 and 3.2 of the current PoO. In February of 1997, the SAC produced a Key Project list upon the recommendation of the WGs. The Scientific Spokesperson will maintain this list and keep it up-to-date and posted on the project website (

As the Key Project papers are the primary scientific legacy of the SDSS, the collaboration has a vested interest in ensuring that they are of the highest quality. The respective WGs are encouraged to review these papers to ensure this. Given their importance, the collective scrutiny they are expected to undergo, and to encourage participants to work on these projects within the Working Groups, these papers will carry the phrase "for the SDSS Collaboration" following the author list.

7. Authorship

7.1 Scientific papers

7.1.1 Author inclusion

At the very least, any scientific paper will include in its author list any individual who has contributed to the scientific analyses presented, along with all builders who have requested authorship. In addition, Sec.4.4.1 of the PoO states that "any Participant, at any stage of a research project, may request that his/her name be added to the list of authors, with the presumption that permission will be granted if there has been any significant contribution to that research project." With the exception of builders, those requesting co-authorship should include a brief description of their contributions to the project. Authorship requests should be made to the paper's team contact (see Sec. 8.1). Project teams are expected to err on the side of inclusion in response to such requests.

Anyone who has been placed on a paper's author list may make a request to the paper's team contact at any time that her or his name be removed from the paper and it shall be removed.

During the three-week period that the paper is available to the collaboration (see Sec. 8.1), the SPC will check that the author list on each scientific paper is appropriate and that the appropriate technical papers are cited. Disputes about author inclusion will be settled by the Ombudsperson, whose decisions will be final.

7.1.2 Two-group author order

The scientific achievements of the SDSS will truly be collaboration achievements, because the SDSS hardware and software make possible projects that would in many cases be inconceivable without them (or without some similarly ambitious undertaking). However, an authorship policy that strictly recognizes all scientific papers purely as products of the collaboration (e.g., alphabetical authorship on all papers) runs the risk of making the individuals in the project effectively anonymous, and it provides little incentive for project participants to analyze the data quickly rather than wait for data to become public. Therefore, for most SDSS scientific publications, the order of authorship will follow a "two-group" system. The first group of authors, the "analysis group", will consist of those who were heavily involved in the specific analysis described in the paper and in the writing of the paper. The other group will consist of all other authors on the paper and will be ordered alphabetically after the analysis group authors.

Membership in the analysis group and order of authorship within the analysis group should be decided by those involved in writing the paper, just as they would decide on membership and order in the author list if they were writing a non-SDSS science paper. In the event of a disagreement about membership in the analysis group or order of authorship, the authors may present their cases to the Ombudsperson, whose decisions will be final.

The analysis group is always permitted to join the two author groups and make their author order alphabetical.

7.2 Technical papers

Those who have worked on a particular component or subsystem will author the appropriate technical paper, with author order decided by the authors. Disputes may be taken to the Ombudsperson, whose decisions will be final.

7.3 Data-release publications

The Scientific Spokesperson shall be responsible for the production of journal papers that describe all of the SDSS data releases. The Spokesperson, in consultation with the Collaboration Council, shall also determine the author list, which for these papers will be alphabetical. Those who have contributed to the writing of the data release paper, or who have contributed in a substantive way to the creation or validation of the data described in the paper, are eligible to be authors.

7.4 Conference proceedings

Because of the practical constraints of page limits, submissions to conference proceedings are not required to follow the authorship policy above. However, any conference paper that does not follow this authorship policy may only include quantitative results (tables and figures, for example) based on papers that have been published or submitted for publication, and it must reference those papers as the primary source for the results. The rationale for this requirement is that conference papers authored by a single author or a small group should not become the primary reference for results that are properly products of the SDSS Collaboration. Conference proceedings which are primarily overviews of the SDSS project status or scientific results should include the byline "for the SDSS Collaboration" after the list of authors.

7.5 Theses

Whether they would otherwise qualify as scientific or technical papers, some undergraduate or graduate theses will be authored by a single author. However, it is required that the author will acknowledge the contribution of the SDSS collaboration and reference the papers describing the thesis results that have been published in or submitted to research journals (see Sec. 8.3).

8. The Publication Process

8.1 Scientific papers

To ensure that SDSS publications fairly represent the contributions of those involved in the Survey and that publications are vetted in a timely and efficient manner, scientific papers based on unreleased SDSS data will be handled as follows:

  1. When a scientific investigation begins, a project team of SDSS participants identifies a team contact who submits to the SDSS Projects Web Page a project title, a list of current project team members, and a brief abstract of the project. In the case of Key Projects, the team contact should also pass this information to the relevant WG chair(s). At this and any other stage of the process, other SDSS participants can join the project team.

  2. When a draft of the scientific paper has been written, the team posts the paper to the Publication Archive as a "pending" paper, and electronically notifies the collaboration (e.g., via a message to sdss-general). This announcement must indicate the journal to which the paper will be submitted. SDSS participants then have three weeks to make comments, request co-authorship, etc, to the team contact (with copies sent to the SPC). To streamline the process, an automated system to query builders or respond positively to their authorship requests should be used. The team contact is encouraged to circulate substantive comments received on the paper's content, along with the team's response. The team revises the paper in response to the comments and other requests it deems valid.

    The SPC, or a representative of the SPC, also checks that the authorship, references, and acknowledgements fairly represent the contributions made to the publication, in particular checking that the appropriate SDSS technical publications are referenced. The SPC carries out this duty within the same three week period.

  3. The authors revise the paper according to comments and suggestions from the collaboration. At the end of the three week period, or at the end of the revision process, the final version of the paper is posted to the Publications Archive. From this point forward, the paper and its results and accompanying material may normally be submitted for publication. The paper is not considered public until its embargo is lifted by the lead author, as indicated at its posting in the Publications Archive (or until it appears in astro-ph or the publication to which it was submitted, should the lead author neglect to lift the embargo before then). Until the embargo is lifted, the paper and its results can not be quoted in public, referenced in other publications, etc. without the permission of the lead author.

  4. When a project team makes revisions in response to an external referee report, it should post the final accepted or published version on the Publications Archive.

In cases of disputes about credit, authorship, or scientific results, the SPC shall work with the author(s) and SDSS participants to resolve them. In cases where a dispute cannot be resolved, the matter may be appealed to the Ombudsperson, whose decisions will be final.

8.2 Technical papers

  1. When a technical paper is drafted, it is posted to the Publications Archive. This announcement must indicate the journal to which the paper will be submitted. The TPC, or a representative of the TPC, will review the paper to ensure that the authorship, references, and acknowledgements fairly represent the contributions made to the publication.

  2. The TPC and SDSS participants will have three weeks to send comments to/request changes from the lead author. Copies of participant comments should also be sent to the TPC.

  3. The lead author posts the final draft on the Publications Archive and submits the paper to the appropriate journal and public electronic archive. The contents of the paper may thereafter be quoted in public presentations, etc., by SDSS participants.

  4. When a technical paper is revised in response to an external referee report, the lead author will post the final version on the Publication Archive.

In the case of disputes about technical publications which the TPC cannot resolve, the matter may be appealed to the Ombudsperson, whose decisions will be final.

8.3 Data Release Papers

Major releases of SDSS data will be accompanied by a paper describing the contents of the data release. These papers are coordinated by the Scientific Spokesperson and are posted to the SDSS archives for three weeks for comment by the collaboration. The Spokesperson will construct the author list, which should contain all appropriate SDSS participants and be in alphabetical order.

8.4 Colloquia, conference presentations, and conference proceedings

In oral or display presentations, colloquium or conference speakers and presenters may, upon consultation with the team contact, make use of unpublished SDSS results (with the exceptions noted in 8.1.iii above) and are expected to give appropriate credit to the SDSS Collaboration and to those involved in producing the results shown or described. Conference proceedings are required to follow the publication procedure described in this Section. In special cases, given the realities of conference proceedings submission deadlines, the authors may request from the Spokesperson an exception from some or all of the publication process requirements. Such requests should be submitted at least three weeks prior to the submission deadline.

8.5 Theses

All theses in which SDSS data play an essential role must be announced to the collaboration when they are begun, just as with other publications. It is the responsibility of each SDSS institution to work out a process for publishing theses which is consistent with both SDSS and departmental policies.

Theses based on SDSS data should not be distributed to the public via the WWW or other electronic archives until either the data on which it is based are public or journal articles describing its main results have been published or submitted for publication. Any such distribution should note the journal articles describing the results, so that they can be appropriately cited by others.

The SDSS will maintain a list of approved SDSS theses. The contents of this list are included in quarterly and annual reports to demonstrate the contribution of the SDSS to graduate education.

8.6 Standard acknowledgement

All SDSS papers that fall under the purview of this policy must contain the standard SDSS acknowledgement, which is maintained by the Spokesperson and posted on the Publications Archive. If a conference proceeding is subject to a tight length constraint (four pages or less), the author may submit a request, to the appropriate publications coordinator, to include only part of the acknowledgement.

8.7 Dissemination of Time-critical Information

The SDSS will detect time-variable events and/or objects for which timely dissemination to the broader astronomical community will pay big scientific dividends. Participants who carry out programs with SDSS data that detect time-critical events are encouraged to report these to the collaboration as a whole, and to the broader community through IAU Circulars and the like. Given the space constraints and expense of IAU Circulars, the attribution for the report should read "The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (see reports...". Relevant finding charts, positions, and photometry drawn from the SDSS data set can be released.

Participants who wish to regularly release substantial amounts of time-critical data, such as positions and photometry of asteroids, must request approval from the SDSS Management Committee. Upon approval, the project must be posted to the Publications Page under the category of "On-line Catalog". At this point the project falls under the rules governing Scientific Publications (three week posting period, authorship rules). Since some (if not all) of these publications will be "living documents", individuals who contribute to the publication but were not part of the project when it was originally posted can, with approval of the lead author, be added to the list of authors at any time.

9. Page Charges

SDSS funds will not be used to pay page charges for any scientific paper. The SDSS will pay page charges for approved technical and data release papers, subject to the budget. The SDSS page charge policy is given in full in sdss-general message 2308.