Skip to main content

Biomedical Authorship: Common Misconducts and Possible Scenarios for Disputes


Authorship of a scientific paper is important in recognition of one’s work, and in the academic setting, helps in professional promotion. Conflicting views of authorship have led to disputes and debates in many scientific communities. Addressing ethical issues in medical research and publishing, and conforming to the requirements of international organizations and local research ethics boards (REBs), has become an essential part of the research endeavor. Ethical issues of biomedical authorship have been a matter of debate for years. Authorship problems may involve problems with integrity, including ghost authorship and guest authorship. Some scientific disciplines, such as engineering or social sciences, may not have a firm guideline for authorship criteria; however this article reviews the criteria of authorship recommended by related international organizations of biomedical field and discusses common scenarios that may lead to authorship disputes and misconducts as well as issues related to authorship in multicenter studies. The paper also discusses possible scenarios that might be legitimate to make changes in authorship lists.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Data Availability

Not applicable.


  1. Added as an author after publication. (2015). Committee on Publication Ethics.

  2. Alshogran, O. Y., & Al-Delaimy, W. K. (2018). Understanding of International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Authorship Criteria Among Faculty Members of Pharmacy and Other Health Sciences in Jordan. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 13(3), 276–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Astaneh, B. (2010, 26–03). the culture of compliments.

  4. Astaneh, B. (2011, 26–03). Authorship criteria; Use or abuse. Authorship criteria – use or abuse.

  5. Astaneh, B. (2015). Ethics: an absolute or conditional issue? European Science Editing, 41(4), 94–95.

  6. Astaneh, B., & Masoumi, S. (2018). From Paper to Practice; Indexing Systems and Ethical Standards. Science and Engineering Ethics, 24(2), 647–654.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Author’s name removed from submitted article. (2006). Committee on Publication Ethics. Retrieved 13 Nov from

  8. Authorship & contributorship. (2020). BMJ. Retrieved 02–10 from

  9. Basford, J. R., Frontera, W. R., & Sjolund, B. H. (2014). Honorary authorship. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 95(3), 429–430.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Bebeau, M. J., & Monson, V. (2011). Authorship and publication practices in the social sciences: Historical reflections on current practices. Science and Engineering Ethics, 17(2), 365–388.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Borenstein, J. (2011). Responsible authorship in engineering fields: An overview of current ethical challenges. Science and Engineering Ethics, 17(2), 355–364.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Breet, E., Botha, J., Horn, L., & Swartz, L. (2018). Academic and Scientific Authorship Practices: A Survey Among South African Researchers. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 13(4), 412–420.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Change in author’s name after publication. (2013). Committee on Publcation Ethics. Retrieved 30.06.2021 from

  14. Committee on Publication Ethics. (2006a). Corresponding author requests addition of extra author before publication. Retrieved 28–03–2020 from

  15. Committee on Publication Ethics. (2006b). Corresponding author requests removal of author before publication. Retrieved 28–03–2020 from

  16. Committee on Publication Ethics. (2006c). Request for addition of extra author after publication. Retrieved 28–03–2020 from

  17. Drazen, J. M. (2010). Ghost and guest authors: An editor’s view. Clinical and Translational Science, 3(2), S4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Faulkes, Z. (2018). Resolving authorship disputes by mediation and arbitration. Res Integr Peer Rev, 3(1), 12.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Fleming, N. (2021). Sidelined: How to tackle authorship disputes. Nature, 594, 459–462.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Fontanarosa, P., Bauchner, H., & Flanagin, A. (2017). Authorship and Team Science. JAMA, 318(24), 2433–2437.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Helgesson, G., Juth, N., Schneider, J., Lovtrup, M., & Lynoe, N. (2018). Misuse of Coauthorship in Medical Theses in Sweden. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 13(4), 402–411.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. (2019). Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals. Retrieved 26–03–2020 from

  23. Jawaid, S. A. (2012). From authorship to contributorship: Are we prepared to say bye- bye to by-line? Pak J Med Sci, 28(5), 1.

  24. Jaykaran, Yadav, P., Chavda, N., & Kantharia, N. D. (2011). Survey of "instructions to authors" of Indian medical journals for reporting of ethics and authorship criteria. Indian J Med Ethics, 8(1), 36–38.

  25. Kassis, T. (2017). How do research faculty in the biosciences evaluate paper authorship criteria? PLoS ONE, 12(8), e0183632.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Kennedy, M. S., Barnsteiner, J., & Daly, J. (2014). Honorary and ghost authorship in nursing publications. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 46(6), 416–422.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Kozma, E., Burling, M., Von Coburg, Y., & Heinen, K. (2014). Authorship: How to decide the order of authors on the byline? Current Medical Research and Opinion, 30(SUPPL. 1), S21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Lapidow, A., & Scudder, P. (2019). Shared first authorship. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 107(4), 618–620.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Marusic, A., Bosnjak, L., & Jeroncic, A. (2011). A systematic review of research on the meaning, ethics and practices of authorship across scholarly disciplines. PLoS ONE, 6(9), e23477.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Matheson, A. (2016). The ICMJE Recommendations and pharmaceutical marketing–strengths, weaknesses and the unsolved problem of attribution in publication ethics. BMC Medical Ethics, 17, 20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Nylenna, M., Fagerbakk, F., & Kierulf, P. (2014). Authorship: Attitudes and practice among Norwegian researchers. BMC Medical Ethics, 15, 53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Okonta, P., & Rossouw, T. (2013). Prevalence of scientific misconduct among a group of researchers in Nigeria. Developing World Bioethics, 13(3), 149–157.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Rennie, D., Yank, V., & Emanuel, L. (1997). When authorship fails. A proposal to make contributors accountable. JAMA, 278(7), 579–585.

  34. Siemieniuk, R. A., & Guyatt, G. H. (2015). Corticosteroids in the treatment of community-acquired pneumonia: an evidence summary [Review]. Pol Arch Med Wewn, 125(7–8), 570–575.

  35. Smith, E., & Master, Z. (2017). Best Practice to Order Authors in Multi/Interdisciplinary Health Sciences Research Publications. Accountability in Research, 24(4), 243–267.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Smith, R. (1997). Authorship is dying: long live contributorship. BMJ, 315(7110), 696.

  37. Strange, K. (2008). Authorship: Why not just toss a coin? American Journal of Physiology. Cell Physiology, 295(3), C567–C575.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Tanenbaum, T. J. (2020). Publishers: Let transgender scholars correct their names. Nature, 583, 493.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Tyebkhan, G. (2003). Declaration of Helsinki: the ethical cornerstone of human clinical research. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol, 69(3), 245–247.

  40. Uijtdehaage, S., Mavis, B., & Durning, S. J. (2018). Whose Paper Is It Anyway? Authorship Criteria According to Established Scholars in Health Professions Education. Academic Medicine, 93(8), 1171–1175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Van der Weyden, M. B. (2007). The ICMJE and URM: Providing Independent Advice for the Conduct of Biomedical Research and Publication. Mens Sana Monogr, 5(1), 15–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Whellan, D. J., Ellis, S. J., Kraus, W. E., Hawthorne, K., Piña, I. L., Keteyian, S. J., & O’Connor, C. M. (2009). Method for establishing authorship in a multicenter clinical trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 151(6), 414–420.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


None declared.


No funds, grants, or other support was received.

Author information




BA: Conceived the idea and developed it, gathered the related data, wrote and critically revised the manuscript; GG: Developed the idea, wrote and revised the article critically; LS: Developed the idea, and revised the article critically. All authors read and approved the final version and accept the accountability.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Behrooz Astaneh.

Ethics declarations

Ethics Approval

Not applicable.

Consent to Participate

Not applicable.

Consent for Publication

Not applicable.

Competing Interests

BA had been a COPE Council member. LS and GG have no conflict of interest to declare.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Astaneh, B., Schwartz, L. & Guyatt, G. Biomedical Authorship: Common Misconducts and Possible Scenarios for Disputes. J Acad Ethics (2021).

Download citation


  • Authorship
  • Medical publishing
  • Ethics