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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

A falling out

98-30

A research letter was submitted from a team of investigators,A, B, C, and D. In their covering letter they reported that: A was involved in planning the study, collecting patient samples, and in writing the manuscript; B measured IL-10 polymorphisms and analysed the results; C was involved in supervising the measurement of polymorphisms and in writing the manuscript; D was involved in planning the study and writing the manuscript. The letter was peer reviewed and published.

Case

Duplicate publication and now fraud?

98-21

Two articles were published in two different journals. The articles had been submitted within days of each other, and were subsequently peer reviewed, revised, and published within a month of each other. The authors failed to reference the closely related article as submitted or in press, and the editors of the two journals were unaware of the other article.

Case

The missing author

98-16

In March 1996, journal A published a case report about an eye condition with two authors credited, Drs X and Y, both radiologists. Exactly two years later, one of their former colleagues (Dr Z) wrote to the editor claiming that she had been responsible for the patient’s care; she was the ophthalmologist on call the night the patient was admitted. She argued that, as the clinician responsible for the patient, her name should have been on this case report.

Case

Questions of authorship, duplicate publication and copyright

98-15

In 1995 a group of nine authors published a paper in a leading general medical journal. Copyright was granted by all authors to the journal. In 1998 the senior author received a complimentary copy of a recently published book. One of the chapters was essentially a reprint of the original paper. It was attributed to the sixth, first and second authors. Neither the first nor second author (the guarantor) had ever heard of this chapter or the book.

Case

An author plagiarising the work of the reviewer?

98-09

An author submitted part of his PhD thesis as a paper. The section editor of the journal asked the PhD supervisor to review the paper. This induced a very heated response from the reviewer who made various claims regarding the paper:
The author does not credit one of the tests he uses in his work
There is no proper acknowledgement of co-workers who perhaps should have been co-authors (including the reviewer himself).

Case

Disputed authorship

98-02

Last year, a paper was published with four named authors. The journal concerned then received a letter from another person claiming that they should also have been credited with authorship. That person (Dr M) had been the second author on an abstract with a similar title presented at a conference, on which the authors of the published paper were also named authors. The journal wrote to the first author of the paper (Dr L).

Case

The fraudulent letter

97-11

A journal published a letter from a student only to discover that it was not written by him. The editor has written to him and his dean apologising, and the journal is publishing a piece saying that the letter was not written by the student. It seems most likely that the piece was written by one of his fellow students. Should we encourage the dean to hold a full investigation?

Case

Can a scientific paper be published anonymously?

97-01

Two authors wrote to me to ask if they could publish a scientific paper anonymously. The authors work in a general practice that had switched its cervical cytology contract from one laboratory to another. Some time after the switch they noticed that the rate of abnormal smears had almost doubled. This has profound implications for the practice and particularly for the women whose smears were positive.

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