You are here

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.

Duplicate publication


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.


Authorship without the author’s knowledge


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.


Authorship dispute


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.


Authorship dispute


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.


The study that may or may not already have been published


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.


Paper submitted by a PR company without the knowledge of the authors


A paper was submitted for which there were seven contributors, but no corresponding author. The only identification of who had sent the paper was an accompanying e-mail from a public relations company. When contacted by the editorial office, the PR company confirmed that the paper was to be considered for possible publication.


The single author, randomised controlled trial


After a randomised controlled trial from a single author had been published, a letter was received in which the correspondent suggested that the original trial might be fraudulent. Firstly, the writer claimed that it was highly unlikely that just one author could perform a prospective, randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trial, especially in a small district hospital. The correspondent was also worried that there was no mention of other standard treatments.


The overlapping papers with conflicting data


Three papers concerning one hospital problem had been submitted to three different journals. Before publication the three editors of the journals became aware of the three different papers and the substantial overlap between them. The three editors communicated with each other and realised that they had four concerns: 1. There was very considerable overlap among the three papers. There didn’t seem to be any justification for publishing three papers rather than one or two. 2.


Who ensures the integrity of the editor?


An editor came across a letter from the editor-in-chief of his journal to a reviewer that asserted he had recommended the acceptance of a manuscript. He had in fact recommended the opposite, both verbally and in writing. The paper in question was a guideline on the therapeutic choices for a relatively common medical condition. The authors had claimed their conclusions and therapeutic recommendations were “evidencebased” and recommended a new, expensive medication as first-line treatment.


Submission without knowledge of the corresponding author


A case report was received and the corresponding author was duly notified. The corresponding (and senior author) immediately faxed back, asking who had submitted the case report as he had not been consulted and had not seen the manuscript.The submission letter contained the names of all four authors; three of the signatures had been made using the same pen and probably the same hand.The signature of the senior and corresponding author was clearly “pp”.