The culture of compliments: when flowcharts can't help

Over at the BMJ blogs, Behrooz Astaneh has written an interesting perspective on the "culture of compliments", which exists in many cultures. He notes that because of this culture "authors feel compelled to put the name of a senior colleague in the byline of their article even though the senior researcher did not contribute to it because they feel it would be rude not to. Or when a reviewer deliberately ignores some shortcomings in an article written by his/her previous professor." There is a clear lesson for organisations such as COPE, as he concludes that "this is an issue that cannot be resolved with guidelines or flowcharts, which are usually released by ethical watchdogs. It is time to consider this fact when we propose guidelines for suitable ethical behavior."


I believe that the senior author must be just that, senior. They should be involved in the idea, support the study, and, if not directly involved in either data collection, or lab experimentation, at the very least read, edit and review in detail the manuscript before it is submitted. Indeed, it is not acceptable to place their name because it is their service, department or labratory. Their seniority should offer the benefit of their years in practice. A publication and its signed copyright submission implies active involvement in both the science AND the writing of the manuscript.