Writers propose a checklist to stamp out ghostwriting

Medical writers from the UK, USA and Australia have developed a checklist that they hope Journal Editors might ask authors to complete to deter unacknowledged or inappropriate writing assistance (or 'ghostwriting'). It has been published in PLoS Medicine (doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000023) with a debate on ghostwriting from editors and researchers.

I should declare my interest, in that I am one of the authors (and definitely not a ghost)!


I am the editor of a small forward looking journal with a larger % of nurse readers. My problem is almost the reverse of "ghost writers". My problem lies in people claiming "authorship" without having done enough input to verify this claim. In the hierarchy of medicine, nurses in some countries, do not feature very high, and it is too easy for a senior person (consultant or manager)to insist that his/her name should be included on a paper which may "belong" to the work unit, but all the academic work for the paper has been researched and written up by someone else. more junior.

  • Posted by Liz Wager, 23/2/2009 9.12am

Of course, guest and gift authorship is an equally serious problem. It's also hard for editors to discern who really qualifies. Listing individuals' contributions (rather than just their names) may go some way towards reducing this problem, but relies on the honesty of the individuals, and there's plenty of evidence that people who want to have their name on a paper are prepared to be untruthful about their contribution. I think in the longterm this problem will only be solved by better education at an early level, across all disciplines.