Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 1457–1472 | Cite as

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

  • Jaime A. Teixeira da SilvaEmail author
  • Judit DobránszkiEmail author


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 (STM) 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.


Collaboration COPE CSE Elsevier Ethics Guest, ghost and gift authorship ICMJE Multi-author Springer Nature Taylor and Francis WAME Wiley-Blackwell 



The authors thank Dr. Michael Kalichman (University of California San Diego, USA), Dr. Oscar Odena (University of Glasgow, UK) and others, who requested to remain anonymous, for constructive discussion on earlier versions of the manuscript. The authors thank Klaas van Dijk (the Netherlands), Dr. Peter J.T. Verheijen (Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands), Prof. Michael E. Smith (Arizona State University, USA) and Emeritus Prof. Loet Leydesdorff (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands) for kind, thoughtful and constructive discussion and suggestions on an earlier version of this manuscript linked to Teixeira da Silva and Dobránszki (2015a).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ikenobe 3011-2Japan
  2. 2.Research Institute of NyíregyházaUniversity of DebrecenNyíregyházaHungary

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