[rfc-i] On Authors, Contributors, Editors, and overload.

Olaf Kolkman (Acting RFC Series Editor) rse at rfc-editor.org
Tue Sep 20 02:47:48 PDT 2011

Dear Colleagues,

There has been a lot of confusion about Authors, Editors and Contributors lately. Up to the point where some documents stalled.

As Acting RFC Series Editor I try not to touch policy whenever it is not needed to keep documents moving. This is a case where I had to make a few decisions that have set some precedent.  

Below you find the refinement/clarification of existent policies in line with recent decisions. I have tried to keep the changes to the existing policies to a minimum, all in the spirit of the role of the Acting RFC Series Editor.

I plan to publish this on the website under http://www.rfc-editor.org/policy.html early october.

The text below intends to replace:
 - http://www.rfc-editor.org/policy.html#policy.authlist and
 - http://www.rfc-editor.org/policy.html#policy.auth

Your comments are welcome.

Kind regards,

--Olaf Kolkman
  Acting RFC Series Editor

---------- Draft Text  -----------

On Authors, Contributors, Editors, and overload.

The specific policy is as follows:

* Headers, Addresses section, AUTH48: the 1:1:1 mapping

  A small set of names, with affiliations, may appear on the front
  page header. These should be the lead author(s) or editors; those
  who are most responsible for the actual text. Below we will refer to
  these as "AUTHORS" and "EDITORS" (all caps)

  The AUTHORS or EDITORS that appear on the front page header all need
  to sign-off during AUTH48 and are the primary contacts in case
  follow-up is needed. Hence they are the ones that are listed in the
  RFC metadata and the ones that are listed in the Authors' or
  Editors' Addresses section. We call this the 1:1:1 mapping. It is
  not subject to negotiation.
  Also see: http://www.rfc-editor.org/policy.html#policy.authresp

  If there are more than five AUTHORS or EDITORS stream-approval is


  The designation AUTHOR or EDITOR is one that is made by the
  individuals themselves.

* Contributing Authors

  An RFC may include a Contributing Authors section, listing those
  contributors who deserve significant credit for the document

  The Contributing Authors section is intended to provide a level of
  recognition greater than an acknowledgment and nearly equal to
  listing on the front page.

  The choice of either, both, or none of Contributing Authors and
  Acknowledgment sections in a particular RFC depends upon the
  circumstance. That choice is primarily an AUTHORS' or EDITORS'

  The format and requirements of the Contributing Authors section are
  the same as the Authors' Addresses.

  If the Contributing Authors section is used, then it is likely that
  AUTHORS are actually EDITORS. In that case the Authors' Addresses
  section could be named Editors' Addresses. The RFC Editor does not
  enforce such guidelines, but may ask for clarification.

  If an EDITOR is also a contributing author, her name may appear in
  the Contributing Authors section as well, without the 'editor'

* Contributors

  As an alternative to the strict-format "Contributing Authors"
  section RFC writers may opt to use a Contributors section. The
  Contributors section may contain free floating text and is also
  intended to credit major contributors to the content.

* Acknowledgements

  The body of an RFC may include an Acknowledgements section. An
  Acknowledgments section may explain scope and nature of
  contributions. It may also specify affiliations.

* Exceptions

  The RFC Editor may grant exceptions to these guidelines upon a
  specific request from the stream approval body (e.g. the IESG) or in
  other exceptional circumstances.

Background and motivation

When the RFC Editor refers to 'AUTHORS' or 'EDITORS', we mean exactly
the set of names listed on the first page of an RFC. These people are
considered to be equally responsible for the contents of the
document. AUTHORS will be asked to read and approve the RFC before
publication and will be the persons that have their contact addresses
listed for clarification, comments, suggestions, or questions from 3rd
parties e.g. on the validity of errata, or on the use of text
fragments beyond that licensed by the IETF trust. This contact
information will occur in the Author's Address (or Authors' Addresses)
section at the end of an RFC.

The IESG and IETF have ratified a policy of limiting the number of
AUTHORS listed in the first page header of an RFC. Objections to huge
author lists are both practical and ideological. The practical issues
have to do with the long-existing RFC formatting conventions that do
not comfortably handle large author lists. Ideological objections stem
from the Internet community's tradition of individual rather than
corporate action and responsibility. Some might see a list of 17
authors on one RFC as motivated by a desire for corporate
name-dropping, which would be inappropriate in the IETF/RFC context.
If there is a desire to demonstrate how many companies are interested
in this spec, a simple acknowledgment section can accomplish the same
thing, without Author Overload.

The Internet community's conventions for RFC authors are one of the
distinctive features of the IETF culture. Most standards bodies
publish anonymous standards, whereas we attach the names of real
people, who get both credit and blame, to our specifications. (This is
probably a result of the historical beginnings of the IETF in the
academic research community.) The person(s) who actually write a
document take responsibility for it, even though there may be a large
working group of several hundred people who potentially contributed to
it. When there are a number of significant contributors, there is
usually a single person tasked with integrating the results into a
single document; that person may be listed as "Editor", with
acknowledgments for the other contributors.

There is no rigid limit on the size of this set, but there is likely
to be a discussion if the set exceeds five AUTHORS, in which case the
right answer is probably to list one, or two, EDITORs.  For instance, 
when there are many contributors, the best choice will be to list the 
person or (few) persons who acted as document editor(s) 
(e.g.,"Tom Smith, Ed.").

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