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Authorship. Kamran Abbasi Editor in Chief, RSM Press. Research misconduct. Research fraud Publication bias Redundant publication Hidden competing interests Authorship disputes. Authorship. Why not move to contributorship ?. Have you ever been involved in an authorship dispute?.

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Editor in Chief, RSM Press

research misconduct
Research misconduct
  • Research fraud
  • Publication bias
  • Redundant publication
  • Hidden competing interests
  • Authorship disputes


Why not move to contributorship?

icmje definition of authorship
ICMJE definition of authorship
  • The uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to medical journals state that authorship credit should be based only on substantial contribution to:
    • Conception and design, or acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data
    • Drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content
    • And final approval of the version to be published 
  • All these conditions must all be met. Participation solely in the acquisition of funding or the collection of data does not justify authorship.
icmje guidance
ICMJE guidance
  • Developed in 1980s
  • Updated intermittently since
  • Authorship guidance adopted by over 600 biomedical journals
  • Often unworkable
  • ‘A self-appointed group of busybodies’
what is contributorship
What is contributorship?

“Contributors should include all those who have added usefully to the work. They might include somebody who suggested the idea and design for the study but did nothing further, or somebody who collected many of the data but was not concerned with design or analysis. Rennie et al suggest that contributors should agree on the relative size of their contributions to decide on the order in which they will be listed.”

  • Richard Smith, BMJ Sep 1997 and Drummond Rennie et al, JAMA 1997
what is a guarantor
What is a guarantor?

“Guarantors," say Rennie et al, "are those people who have contributed substantially, but who have also made added efforts to ensure the integrity of the entire project. They organise, oversee, and double check and must be prepared to be accountable for all parts of the completed manuscript, before and after publication."

what is gift authorship
What is gift authorship?
  • Allowing somebody joint or sole authorship of an article when they have made little or no contribution to the work. They may never have seen it.
  • Offered by the weak to the powerful
  • A ploy to gain professional advantage
  • Intellectually dishonest
  • Sometimes called honorary authorship
what is ghost authorship
What is ghost authorship?
  • Absence from the list of authors when you have made a contribution to the work that either qualifies you as an author, contributor, or guarantor.
  • Forced on the weak by the powerful
  • A ploy to gain commercial advantage
  • Intellectually dishonest
honorary and ghost authorship in high impact biomedical journals 1
Honorary and ghost authorship in high impact biomedical journals 1
  • Cross sectional survey (2008 v 1996)
  • Annals, JAMA, Nature Med, Lancet, NEJM, PLoS Med
  • Self-reported compliance with ICMJE guidance
  • 630/896 corresponding authors
  • Online confidential questionnaire

Wislar J et al. BMJ 2011; 343 doi: 10.1136/bmj.d6128 (Published 25 October 2011

the pearce affair the cast
The Pearce affair: The cast
  • Professor Geoffrey Chamberlain. President of the RCOG, editor of the BJOG, professor of obsterics at St George’s. Affectionately known as “Bodger”
  • Malcolm Pearce. Assistant editor of the BJOG, senior lecturer at St George’s.
the pearce affair the papers
The Pearce affair: The papers
  • Case report of embryo of ectopic pregnancy reimplanted and successful pregnancy. Massive media attention worldwide—a “true” breakthrough.
  • A trial of treating recurrent miscarriage in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Nearly 200 women recruited.
  • Both papers published in BJOG in August 1994.
the pearce affair
The Pearce affair
  • A whistleblower at the medical school reported that the patient in the case report did not exist
  • Ability to recruit so many women for the polycystic ovary trial was also questioned
  • Malcolm Pearce, author of both papers, was fired by St George’s and reported to the GMC
the pearce affair1
The Pearce affair
  • Chamberlain discovered after publication that the woman in the case report did not exist
  • This was a problem because he was editor of the journal
  • This was an even more serious problem because he was a co-author on the case report
  • He suggested it was normal for senior people to put their names on papers they had done little work on
the pearce affair the fall out
The Pearce affair: The fall out
  • The Daily Mail made it a front page story
  • Pearce struck off by the GMC
  • Chamberlain resigned as journal editor and college president
  • A college working party investigated the affair
  • Both men were disgraced
  • Yet how many similar stories have gone undiscovered?
  • "to copy (ideas, passages of text, etc.) from someone else's work and use them as if they were one's own"(Chambers Dictionary)
  • "ranges from unreferenced use of others' published and unpublished ideas … to submission under 'new' authorship of a complete paper"(COPE guidelines)
  • Contributorship
  • “Please note the way that we list the names of contributors to papers published in the BMJ. We believe that the definition of authorship, produced by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (or Vancouver Group), has some serious flaws.”
bmj contributors
BMJ: Contributors
  • We now list contributors in two ways. Firstly, we publish a list of authors' names at the beginning of the paper and, secondly, we list contributors (some of whom may not be included as authors) at the end of the paper, giving details of who did what in planning, conducting, and reporting the work.
  • One or more of these contributors are listed as guarantors of the paper. The guarantor accepts full responsibility for the work and/or the conduct of the study, had access to the data, and controlled the decision to publish.
the lancet
The Lancet
  • We ask all authors and all contributors (including medical writers and editors) to specify their individual contributions at the end of the text.
  • For reports of original data and systematic reviews, authors’ specific contributions will be published in the Acknowledgment section
jama group authorship
JAMA: Group authorship
  • “If authorship is attributed to a group (either solely or in addition to 1 or more individual authors), all members of the group must meet the full criteria and requirements for authorship as described above.”
group authorship
Group authorship
  • Individual authors can be listed in the article, either in the byline or elsewhere
  • Authors listed in this way will be included in Medline
  • Many different policies (ICMJE, WAME, COPE, individual journals)
  • ICMJE guidance probably invites dishonesty
  • Contributorship slowly being adopted
  • Traditional authorship lives on but no rules on ordering of authors
  • Role of corresponding author varies


How to avoid problems? Resolve disputes?