Multiple Authorship in Scientific Manuscripts: Ethical Challenges, Ghost and Guest/Gift Authorship, and the Cultural/Disciplinary Perspective

Science and Engineering Ethics 22 (5):1457-1472 (2016)
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Abstract

Multiple authorship is the universal solution to multi-tasking in the sciences. Without a team, each with their own set of expertise, and each involved mostly in complementary ways, a research project will likely not advance quickly, or effectively. Consequently, there is a risk that research goals will not be met within a desired timeframe. Research teams that strictly scrutinize their modus operandi select and include a set of authors that have participated substantially in the physical undertaking of the research, in its planning, or who have contributed intellectually to the ideas or the development of the manuscript. Authorship is not an issue that is taken lightly, and save for dishonest authors, it is an issue that is decided collectively by the authors, usually in sync with codes of conduct established by their research institutes or national ministries of education. Science, technology and medicine publishers have, through independent, or sometimes coordinated efforts, also established their own sets of guidelines regarding what constitutes valid authorship. However, these are, for the greater part, merely guidelines. A previous and recent analysis of authorship definitions indicates that the definitions in place regarding authorship and its validity by many leading STM publishers is neither uniform, nor standard, despite several of them claiming to follow the guidelines as set forward by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors or ICMJE. This disparity extends itself to ghost and guest authorship, two key authorship-related issues that are examined in this paper to assess the extent of discrepancies among the same set of STM publishers and what possible influence they might have on publishing ethics.

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