Writers Blocked: On the Wrongs of Research Co-authorship and Some Possible Strategies for Improvement
- 582 Downloads
The various problems associated with co-authorship of research articles have attracted much attention in recent years. We believe that this (hopefully) growing awareness is a very welcome development. However, we will argue that the particular and increasing importance of authorship and the harmful implications of current practices of research authorship for junior researchers have not been emphasised enough. We will use the case of our own research area (bioethics) to illustrate some of the pitfalls of current publishing practices—in particular, the impact on the evaluation of one’s work in the area of employment or funding. Even where there are explicit guidelines, they are often disregarded. This disregard, which is often exemplified through the inflation of co-authorship in some research areas, may seem benign to some of us; but it is not. Attribution of co-authorship for reasons other than merit in relation to the publication misrepresents the work towards that publication, and generates unfair competition. We make a case for increasing awareness, for transparency and for more explicit guidelines and regulation of research co-authorship within and across research areas. We examine some of the most sensitive areas of concern and their implications for researchers, particularly junior ones, and we suggest several strategies for future action.
KeywordsEthics of co-authorship Philosophy Bioethics Research independence Publication ethics
The authors would like to thank their colleague Kristien Hens for extensive discussions and valuable suggestions in the writing and re-writing of this paper. Daniela Cutas would also like to thank the many course participants with whom she discussed co-authorship during research ethics courses. Without them, this paper would not have existed.
- Aad, G., et al. (2012). Search for the standard model Higgs Boson in the Diphoton decay channel with 4.9 of pp collision data at \(\sqrt 3\) = 7 TeV with ATLAS. Physical Review Letters, 108, 111803.Google Scholar
- Albert, T., & Wager, E. (2003). How to handle authorship disputes: a guide for new researchers. COPE report. http://publicationethics.org/files/2003pdf12.pdf.
- Falagas, M., Ierodiakonou, V., & Alexiou, V. G. (2009). Response. FASEB Journal, 23, 1283–1284 (Letters to the Editor).Google Scholar
- Fadeel, B. (2009). But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. FASEB Journal, 23, 1283–1284 (Letters to the Editor).Google Scholar
- Modi, P., Hassan, A., Teng, C., & Chitwood, W. (2008). How many cardiac surgeons does it take to write a research article? Seventy years of authorship proliferation and internalization in the cardiothoracic surgical literature. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, 136(1), 4–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- PLoS Medicine Editors. (2009). Ghostwriting: the dirty little secret of medical publishing that just got bigger. PLoS Medicine, 6(9), e.1000156.Google Scholar
- Rahman, L., & Muihead-Allwood, S. (2010). How many orthopedic surgeons does it take to write a research article? 50 years of authorship proliferation in and internationalization of the orthopedic surgery literature. Orthopedics, 33(7), 478.Google Scholar
- Segerdahl, P. (2011). Have you cited a captive ape? In The ethics blog. Accessed September 2014 from http://ethicsblog.crb.uu.se/2011/11/04/have-you-cited-a-captive-ape/.
- Shaw, D. (2011a). The ICMJE definition of authorship is unethical. British Medical Journal, 343(7831), 999.Google Scholar
- Shaw, D. (2012). Unethical framework. Times Higher Education. January 26th. Accessed September 2014 from http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/418830.article.
- Sword, H. (2012). Stylish academic publishing. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- American Mathematical Society. (2004). Statement: The culture of research and scholarship in mathematics: Joint research and its publication. Accessed September 2014 from http://www.ams.org/profession/leaders/culture/CultureStatement04.pdf.
- International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). Accessed September 2014 from http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/defining-the-role-of-authors-and-contributors.htm.
- Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog. (2011). Co-authoring published papers as a graduate student? Accessed September 2014 from http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2011/02/co-authoring-published-papers-as-a-graduate-student.html.
- Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog. (2012). Co-authorship rates by discipline? Accessed September 2014 from http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2012/11/co-authorship-rates-by-discipline.html.
- Leiter Reports: A Philosophy Blog. (2013). Co-authorship in philosophy. Accessed September 2014 from http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/02/co-authorship-in-philosophy.html.
- Oslo University Hospital, Summary of the Report of the Commission of Inquiry. Accessed September 2014 from http://www.ous-research.no/general/?k=general%252Fnews_articles&aid=5472.
- Retraction Watch, archive on Diederik Stapel. Accessed September 2014 from http://retractionwatch.com/category/by-author/diederik-stapel/.
- The Philosophers’ Cocoon (philosophy blog). (2014). Co-writing philosophy. Accessed September 2014 from http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2014/05/co-writing-philosophy.html.
- The Philosophical Review. Accessed September 2014 from https://www.dukeupress.edu/The-Philosophical-Review/.