Magnifying glass atop research papers.

A recent article spotlights what appears to be a high rate of “honorary authorship” in scientific publishing. The term refers to the controversial practice of listing an individual (a mentor, senior researcher, etc.) among the authors of a manuscript, even if that individual made little to no substantial contribution to the work.  

Writing for Science, Jeffrey Brainard reports on a new study that found that up to one-third of >600,000 authors assessed in the study may have been named as authors without meeting commonly used criteria (ICMJE and PNAS). The investigative team, led by Nicola Di Girolamo, a veterinary researcher at Cornell University, presented its report at the International Congress on Peer Review and Scientific Publication in September.  

As Brainard describes, the team assessed author-contribution statements for approximately 82,000 papers in 7 open-access journals published by the Public Library of Science. Read the article here: ‘Honorary Authors’ of Scientific Papers Abound—But They Probably Shouldn’t.

JBJS Authorship Guidelines 

JBJS supports research integrity and best practices throughout the publishing process. When submitting a manuscript to JBJS, authors must indicate their contributor roles, in accordance with the CRediT (Contributor Roles Taxonomy) initiative.  

In addition, JBJS guidelines state that “Each author must have contributed significantly to, and be willing to take public responsibility for, one or more aspects of the study: its design, data acquisition, and analysis and interpretation of data. All authors must have been actively involved in the drafting and critical revision of the manuscript, and each must provide final approval of the version to be published.” 

Given the growing number of multicenter studies and papers with multiple authors, additional guidance is provided if a research group is designated as the author of an article. 

For more information, see the JBJS Instructions for Authors. 

Additional materials in support of JBJS authors and prospective authors (instructions, explanations, and advice) can be found in the Author Resource Center. 

One thought on “Who Qualifies as an Author?

  1. Dr Swiontkowski may not have mentioned it but the JBJS did feature on this issue in the Orthopaedic Forum article “How Many Orthopaedic Surgeons Does It Take to Write a Manuscript” in 2016.

    Frankly the 2016 vignette-based article gives far more practical advice and thought provoking consideration than some of the guidelines.

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