Authorship conflict

Case number:

Case text (Anonymised)

Author A contacted our journal following publication of a manuscript claiming that he was the rightful author. We asked the author for proof and he said that he had all of the data concerning the patient because he received the operative specimen and made the diagnosis. Author A said he also collaborated in writing the article with author B and hence was surprised that neither his name nor his contribution appeared in the published article.

Author A alleged he gave authorisation to present the case in a conference to author B who later published the article in our journal without his consent. 

Question(s) for the COPE Forum
• Who is the owner of this article?
• Is this a case of plagiarism?
• What action can we take regarding authors A and B?


The Forum advised referring the matter to the institution. Journal editors and publishers cannot be involved in adjudicating authorship disputes. Only the institution(s) can determine who is the rightful author. Hence the advice was to contact the institution and request an investigation. If the institution agrees to investigate, the editor may wish to issue an Expression of Concern until the results of the investigation are available.

As this was a case study, was permission granted from the patient to publish the paper? The editor could seek out the patient consent form, and determine if that came from author A or author B. Case reports must not be published without informed patient consent.