Authorship is associated with scientific capital and prestige, and corresponding authorship is used in evaluation as a proxy for scientific status. However, there are no empirical analyses on the validity of the corresponding authorship metadata in bibliometric databases. This paper looks at differences in the corresponding authorship metadata in Web of Science (WoS) and Scopus to investigate how the relationship between author position and corresponding authors varies by discipline and country and analyzes changes in the position of corresponding authors over time. We find that both WoS and Scopus have accuracy issues when it comes to assigning corresponding authorship. Although the number of documents with a reprint author has increased over time in both databases, WoS indexed more of those papers than Scopus, and there are significant differences between the two databases in terms of who the corresponding author is. Although metadata is not complete in WoS, corresponding authors are normally first authors with a declining trend over time, favoring middle and last authors, especially in the Medical, Natural Sciences, and Engineering fields. These results reinforce the importance of considering how databases operationalize and index concepts such as corresponding authors, this being particularly important when they are used in research assessment.

This content is only available as a PDF.

Author notes

Handling Editor: Li Tang

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For a full description of the license, please visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/legalcode.