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Authorship and contributorship

Clear policies (that allow for transparency around who contributed to the work and in what capacity) should be in place for requirements for authorship and contributorship as well as processes for managing potential disputes

Our core practices

Core practices are the policies and practices journals and publishers need, to reach the highest standards in publication ethics. We include cases with advice, guidance for day-to-day practice, education modules and events on topical issues, to support journals and publishers fulfil their policies.
Case

Redundant publication and a question of authorship

01-33

A paper was reviewed and subsequently published in December 1999. A further publication with an almost identical title, but with different authors, was published in another journal in 2000. It is quite clear both papers relate to the same study, and apart from some minor differences in style, which were probably requested by the editorial offices, they seem to be identical.

Case

Duplicate publication

01-25

An author published a paper in Journal A that looked extremely similar to one already published as guidelines in Journal B. Of 48 paragraphs of text, 41 were almost identical. It has since transpired that several authors who were involved in the writing of the article published in Journal B have not been acknowledged. Prior publication elsewhere had not been acknowledged in the Journal A paper. The editor wrote to the authors requesting an explanation.

Case

Yet more attempted duplicate publication

01-22

A study submitted to a journal was sent out for external review. The reviewer pointed out that it was essentially a shorter version of a paper already published elsewhere. The authors had referenced this paper, but did not make clear that the submitted paper was simply a summary of the other published paper. Nor did they mention the other paper in the covering letter, or include a copy of it.

Case

Dual submission

01-19

While reviewing revised manuscripts, the editor of Journal A happened across two manuscripts that looked remarkably similar. One was on the point of acceptance, pending revision of a table; one had just been revised by the authors. The two papers were from the same institution, apparently on the same population of exposed workers, with the same measurements, and with closely related conclusions. Two authors were common to both papers.

Case

Undeclared conflicts of interest and potential author dispute over signed letter for publication

01-16

A letter was published that provides guidance on prescribing a particular drug in children. There are anxieties about the use of this drug in children, and sometime back a letter from essentially the same group on the same subject was published in the same journal. The electronic version of this original letter included a conflict of interest statement, but the paper edition did not. This was a mistake.

Case

Duplicate publication

01-13

Sixteen randomly chosen papers were examined from a PubMed search of 370 publications between 1995–2000 by the same author. Two papers were virtually identical, differing only in the form of the introductory paragraph and the list of authors. Neither publication acknowledges the other. Another paper reported a “second ever published case”, and two subsequent papers reported the same “second” case without reference to the earlier published paper. The text was again very similar.

Case

Authorship without the author’s knowledge

01-09

A paper was rejected on the reviewer’s recommendation. The editor met one of the senior authors at a conference and out of politeness apologised for rejecting his paper. He was surprised to learn that the senior author had no knowledge of this paper and that the corresponding author had written papers using the senior author’s name without his knowledge in the past. This prompted the editor to write to all the authors.

Case

Authorship dispute

00-29

Two manuscripts were received by Journal X, from author A. Both were accepted and sent to the publisher. On receipt of the galley proofs, the corresponding author removed the name of the last author from both manuscripts. Shortly before the page proofs arrived, the journal editors received a request that author A be allowed to remove author B from the authors’ list and instead make a suitable acknowledgement.

Case

Authorship dispute

00-13

An article was published with three authors’ names. Not all of the authors’ signatures had been included on the original submission letter. A complaint was lodged by Y, who said that X had submitted the paper without either his or Z’s consent or knowledge, and that there were several specific errors and omissions. Y then submitted a statement for publication in the journal dissociating himself from the published article.

Case

The study that may or may not already have been published

00-09

A study purported to have been stimulated by a systematic review that had already been published in the journal. The new study included 15 patients who had been treated in one arm of a study and 15 who had been treated in another arm. The peer reviewers noticed that the original systematic review included 31 patients from the same authors. The editor contacted the authors asking them to make clear whether this was a new study or a presentation of existing data.

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