We have noticed some authors who are publishing at a rate that is exceptionally high.
(1) An author of a recent submission has published over 100 articles since January 2005; he had published fewer than 50 in the preceding 5 years. This is quite a sudden increase. On average, he published 1 article every 8 days in 2005, and in 2006 this increased to 1 every 4 days. The author is on the board of his institute, and is a department head.
(2) Another recent author published nearly 100 articles in PubMed in 2006, and more than 50 in both 2004 and 2005. This is 1 article every 4 days in 2006, every 6 days in 2005 and every 7 days in 2004. The author is a laboratory director.
Publication rates that are this high have raised our suspicions that the authors may not truly qualify for authorship under the ICMJE guidelines for each article.
It has been shown that some infamous cases of fraud were by prolific authors ("High annual publication rates had characterised many of the international research misconduct cases, which had begun to come to light in the mid-1970s" http://www.bmj.com/
cgi/reprint/331/7511/281.pdf; Lock S, Wells F: Fraud and misconduct in biomedical research. BMJ Books, 1993), for example, Robert Slutsky published 1 paper every 10 days.
Questions for COPE:
Is our suspicion of these authors reasonable, and at what levels do other editors become concerned about whether or not an author is truly deserving of authorship?
When should we, as journal editors, raise concerns about overly prolific authors to institutions?
Is there any way to identify the most prolific authors on a systematic basis (databases, search engines, software)?