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). She responded as follows: “The abstract was one of three submitted by our research group, describing early findings from two separate studies that investigated the epidemiology of gonorrhoea. All of the abstracts were written by Dr L several months before the meeting. Dr M was not involved in the published study, but as part of the research group, and could potentially have contributed at a later stage. With the benefit of hindsight Dr M’s name should have been included only on abstracts from the study in which she was participating.” According to the first author of the paper, Dr M’s involvement in the research had been to conduct interviews with patients and enter data from those interviews. Dr L goes on to say in her letter: “Dr M did not participate in conception or design of the published study which started before her contract began. She did not contribute to data collection, data entry or editing, statistical analysis, interpretation of results, drafting or revision of the manuscript.” Dr L then goes on to describe the contribution of the other three named authors of the paper, all of whom seem to have contributed to conception, data collection and revising of the manuscript. The point of issue here seems to be that Dr M was part of the research group, although not directly involved in the study which was published in the journal, despite the fact that her name was included on the abstract when it was presented at the conference. According to Dr L, the project on which Dr M worked directly has not yet been written up. According to Dr M, as second author on the abstract, she was not told that her name would be omitted from the list of authors when the paper was submitted for publication.
· She sounded like a contributor, not an author.
It is common practice to put people on abstracts even when they had only had a small part.
It is dangerous practice to involve someone at one level (in this case the abstract) but not at another (the paper), without making the arrangements explicit at the outset.
Doubts that this is the business of editors.
There was an extensive literature on authorship that people could be referred to.
This is an institutional problem. Conclusion The editor should ask whether Dr M had even discussed the matter with Dr L; Dr M and Dr L should be asked to get together and agree what their contribution was in the light of the Vancouver guidelines (irrespective of what happened with the abstract). If they failed to agree then the matter should be referred to their institution.
A paper was submitted to one journal on 7 March, revised on 20 May, submitted to another journal on 21 March, revised on 29 May, accepted on 2 July and published in December 1997. The content of both papers is identical but each has different reference styles so were clearly intended for two different journals. The submission letter to the first journal clearly states that the material has not been submitted elsewhere. What should the two editors do now?
The committee felt that this behaviour was clearly wrong. They suggested that the two editors should write initially to the authors inviting an explanation and saying that they were considering sanctions. They should invite a reply by a certain date and if they had not heard enact the sanctions. - They suggested writing to all the authors, not just the corresponding author. - Another suggestion was peer review to ensure that the two publications were duplicates. Suggested sanctions included: - A notice of duplicate publication, including details of any further sanctions. - Consider refusing to consider papers for 2 years. - Writing to the head of department/institution.
The editors of both journals simultaneously published an editorial in their May issues the following year, explaining to readers why they minded about duplicate publication. Both editors also retracted the publication and informed the author that they would not be accepting any further papers from him for 2 years. Nothing further has been heard from the author.