Declaration of contributorship
Case text (Anonymised)
An online post-publication literature evaluation service, aiming to highlight the best articles in medicine, received an evaluation of an article whose authors were based at the same institution as the evaluator. The editor asked the contributor if he/she had any involvement in the study and received the following response: “I am based at the university but did not participate in the design of the study. I occasionally cross-covered some of the patients when a co-author was out of town”. During an in-house editorial meeting, it was decided that the editor should ask the evaluator for a more detailed declaration and asked whether he/she had advised or contributed in any other way, other than treating the patients according to the protocol? The editor is awaiting feedback; the editor presented the case in an editorial meeting, raising the potential point of concern of whether we can accept this evaluation, considering the evaluator has covered some of the patients in the study and, therefore, may have a certain level of involvement.
(1) Would you have taken a different course of action?
(2) With regards to involvement and contributing to studies, where does contributorship begin?
The committee advised that the evaluation service should have a policy of not accepting evaluations if the evaluator is from the same institution as the authors. The committee felt that a clear code of practice on this issue would prevent any future such cases from arising.
The editorial guidelines have now been updated and the editor considers this case now closed.