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Rather late than never, I feel compelled to add to the comments about honorary authorship. As a graduate student with Barbara Bowman in the 70s, I did some independent experiments. When I wrote up the papers with Barbara as coauthor, she told me that it was my work and she had no need to be on the paper. When I was a postdoc in Bill Konigsberg's lab, I also did some independent work and approached him about leaving his name off of the papers. Bill agreed, and I published a couple of papers as the principal author. I have been fortunate to have had mentors who allowed me to pursue my own ideas and who taught me that authorship is earned, not honorary. They also taught me that sharing unique research reagents in reasonable amounts is collegial and expected, not grounds for co-authorship.
I learned the potential repercussions of the decisions made by Barbara and Bill during a site visit for a program project grant review. The review panel criticized Bill for having "few" publications during the previous grant period. His response was that the publications from his group were just as significant whether his name was on them or not. He would not have had the opportunity to make this case had the grant been an R01 at study section.
The conflict in expecting or requiring co-authorship versus declining co-authorship should be apparent. So long as reviewers evaluate productivity as the number of published papers during the previous few years, investigators who decline credit for small contributions will be penalized at multiple levels (e.g. promotion and tenure as well as funding).
Clearly there are investigators more capable than I, but a paper every two months, on average, seems extremely productive. That works out to 180 publications over 30 years, yet I repeatedly hear introductory praise for speakers with "over 300 publications". Perhaps we should punish individuals with "productivity" in excess of a reasonable limit to level the competitive field between the investigators who actually did the work and the senior member with the money, the reputation, or the power.
Apart from the honorary authorship to profs./PIs (which works like that because of money dependence/ political things) there is often the case of authorship to students that did not contribute much to be considered as authors...and this is happening often,judging based on favorites and not based on the work. Will it ever end? I do not think so since our nation, unfortunately, works like that.
The editorial mentions that "many publishers now require disclosure of specific contributions for scientific authorship". If formally implemented by all publishers,
it is in my opinion the most effective way to
fight and hopefully end honorary authorship.
I totally agree with the paper.
However, I feel that the institutions and governments usually are following what the standards of the editorials.
For example, in Spain, the position of a paper within JCR index (Q1, Q2, Q3...) has become an standard to evaluate cv, and also the position of the author within the authorship line and the number of authors in a paper (more authors than the average in your field implies less score when evaluating your cv).
From my point of view, if the editorials force the authors to include a public printed footnote within the paper establishing the percentage of authorship, e.g. the principal author a 70-80%, a PI that does not contribute, a 5-10%, authors that give some ideas but do not review the paper 15-20%, and so on... Then, in a few years, I'm sure the governments will start to use this partial authorship to evaluate cvs, and although it will not stop fraudulent behaviours, it could put some boundaries.
In their editorial, “Ending Honorary Authorship” (Science 337(6098):1019, 2012), Greenland & Fontanarosa call on the scientific community to put an end to “honorary authorships.” We applaud and support this initiative.
To succeed, however, the community must close existing loopholes in academic authorship standards, such as the one exploited by a practice currently spreading in the field of neuroimaging (see Rohlfing & Poline, NeuroImage 59(4):4189-4195, 2012; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.09.080). Here, research projects such as the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), the Pediatric Imaging, Neurocognition, and Genetics (PING) study, and the Australian Imaging Biomarkers and Lifestyle Study of Ageing (AIBL) share their data only with researchers who agree to add the respective consortium to the author list of published papers using these data.
To avoid running afoul of authorship criteria, such as those established by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), these groups declare that by including a footnote in which they renounce authorship, they are merely claiming credit as non-author contributors. Thus, while admitting that theirs is not the authority to change the name of the author byline (Hurko et al., NeuroImage 59(4):4196-4200, 2012; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.10.085), they nevertheless assert the right to redefine its purpose.
Future authorship standards should, therefore, clearly state that only authors may be listed on the author byline, whereas non-authors must be acknowledged elsewhere (e.g., in an appendix or footnote). It would be wise to clarify also that criteria for authorship apply not only to individuals but groups as well, with no special exemptions for the latter.
At the same time, incentive systems for contributions such as data or software should be created to reduce the perceived need for quid pro quo authorships. Researchers who provide resources to the community should be able to list these contributions in their resumes, and equal consideration should be given to these and traditional publications in funding and promotion decisions.
Agree on the main points but asking all authors to take credit for the whole of the work is potentially problematic and might dampen willingness to collaborate. Taking credit for what you have contributed and being willing and aware of the entire content of a paper might be a reasonable compromise. Giving each author the opportunity of confidential acceptance of their authorship may help highlight problems. However, it's hard to believe that an author would protest a submission and still retain anonymity. The answer is to either devalue authorships or require self-declarative partial authorships.
Here is a case of authorship abuse. Recently, a friend of mine made important findings, and a paper is in shape. Then, the boss (PI) insisted putting another lab person on the paper as equally-contributed first author while in fact she contributed nothing to the paper. My friend opposed, and the boss retaliated against my friend by all means you can imagine. Then, my friend resigned.
Actually, this is not the first time he (the boss, PI) does this kind of things for her. It has been showing a consistent pattern. He has put her on 2 other researchers’ publications as equally-contributed first author previously while she contributed nothing to those publications.
This is power-abusing. It is corruption.
Hope the Editorial can launch broad debates to address authorship issues in our science community.
this is a great article. while, i understand the intent, there are practical issues - in the current environment all the PI does is write grants to generate the money and often other than providing the overall idea, there is little contribution by the PI. Is that sufficient for authorship - all PI's will say yes, all post-docs and students will say no.
If you want this to work, Journals should remove author names and affiliations while sending papers for review? Even today, this matters a lot. So, only journals that do that have the moral right to say, our work is based only on scientific merit - and hence only those who contributed should be co-authors.
Through my career (unlike physics and chemistry) in Life Sciences, I have had comments from grant reviewers and promotion committees often that "you have very few first or last author papers", this in spite of journals asking us to declare contribution. We not only have fraud in terms of including authors, but also in terms of ordering them - student who needs a PhD needs two first author papers, so put them there etc..
Life science researchers need a cultural change, no authors or affiliation during review process, alphabetical list of authors, etc.. should all go hand in hand to make this work.
I agree with the authors, this needs to stop.
Couldn't agree more. It is something that most, if not all, of us have to deal with in some way or another....a postdoc asking for authorship when all he/she did was provide a brief review of the work, a supervisor sending a list of names to include as coauthors, a student adding everyone in the research group, a student including the friend of the supervisor to build up authority, etc. In all honesty though, how can i not include a supervisor in a publication (even if he had not contributed anything) when my phd is on the line? and some supervisors are not afraid to clarify that they are the sole judge of the degree...
So unless publication bodies start to take action, this will most likely go on forever. I have never met a student or academic brave enough to take the risk and stick it to the Man.
Excellent call for more transparent authorship. How does it "translate" to more hierarchical societies where the cultural expectations may be different than those of "Western" science?
The final paragraph suggests that it will be the senior scientists that will set an example for the younger generation. I suspect it will be the opposite, that our students will learn how to do it right despite us. As the wise man said, "Science advances funeral by funeral."
Honorary authorship is purely political, poisoning and insulting to science and science community. This kind of practices slow down progress of science significantly. Honorary authorship should be ended as soon as possible. I would like to suggest that: Every research institutions set up an Authorship Committee to check and approve the authorship on a manuscript before its submission. In this way, true contributors would be honored, and authorship abuses prevented. Particularly, some PIs abuse their power as correspondence author for their personal/political gains. It is simply corruption.
Congratulations! I would add annother reason that have motivated the inclusion of names among authors, that is, to inflates the publication list of someone that will latter have more chances to compete for grants in supporting agencies. The whole group would benefit of this since the grants will then boost lab capacities. Regards.
I agree with this article and with the two comments so far. Since they are named on the grant, most PIs and co-investigators will want their names on project papers regardless of whether they have contributed to the published work or not. I experienced this a couple of years ago and when I raised the issue of authors not contributing to my work being on my paper, I was told that, "I would never win this battle". I even had to put someone on the paper that I had never met. The text for the authors' contributions section was difficult to write to say the least.
It all sounds great, and I used to think it was simple, but it is no longer so clear to me anymore where to draw the line. At what point should a PI be dropped from the author list? They are, after all, usually responsible for the whole research project, even if the actual number of conversations held with the first author is minimal. Should a PI who becomes essentially a manager and behind-the-scenes (as far as the first author is concerned) advocate for the science of others never be author of a paper? My present path through this minefield is to err on the side of including people and then ask these potential authors to decide for themselves whether they think they have contributed sufficiently. I find that different people have very different thresholds as to what they think is a sufficient contribution!
"A true author is someone who has made substantive intellectual contributions to a study and is responsible for a component of the work"
Well... I'm sure that would eliminate some PI's from being authors....
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