Senior authorship is the practice whereby the last position on an author line is occupied by the leader of the lab in which the project was conducted (i.e., the P.I., the advisor, whatever terminology you prefer). Being the senior author on a paper is considered a sign of leadership on the project and is arguably at least as prestigious as being the first author. This practice is commonplace (i.e., practically required) in the cellular, molecular & biomedical fields, and is becoming increasingly prevalent in ecology.
Nearly two years ago I suggested that the idea of using the last position on an author line to indicate the “senior author” was bad for collaborative, interdisciplinary, fields such as ecology. While I still believe this to be true I’m wondering if this is a battle that has already been quietly fought and lost. I’ve seen more and more examples of labs that are using this senior authorship model (i.e., the advisor is always in last place on the author line and presumably not because they always make the smallest contribution) and just in the last few weeks I’ve noticed that Wiley’s RSS feeds no longer even list the first author of the paper, just the last author. So, I thought I’d ask you (and any of your friends you’d like to forward this to) what you thought so that folks starting their own labs (including me) can get a feel for what the field’s take on last authorship is.
Feel free to discuss further in the comments.
UPDATE: Corrected Freudian slip in the title.