Case of the month: Institutional investigation of authorship dispute #16-15
The editor received a claim that several authors were removed from an article published in their journal before the article was submitted. None of those said to have been removed were acknowledged. The claimant requested retraction stating the article was previously submitted to other journals, listing them as an author. The claimant was reluctant to be named and expressed concern about repercussions but agreed the journal could contact the authors and institution. The submitting author said the claimant should not have been an author and that the claimant agreed to this, and provided signed statements from the other removed authors agreeing to being removed. The journal asked the institution to investigate. After several months, the institutional committee informed the journal of their decision: the claimant provided an email statement agreeing not to be listed as an author; the published author list was correct; the claimant would be penalised professionally for harming the institution’s reputation. The editor requested advice from the COPE Forum on several issues, including how to deal with uncooperative or potentially biased institutional review committees.