Multiple First Authors as Equal Contributors: Is It Ethical?
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The recent article titled “Evaluation by citation” by Maarten van Wesel (2016) outlines the thorny ethical dilemma driving the “publish or perish syndrome” that promotes scientific shortcuts leading to ethical misconduct. When I started writing papers three decades ago at the Smithsonian Institution in the United States, we were taught by senior scientists on the ethics of scientific writing that precisely outlined specifics on how to list co-authors in papers based on their actual contributions. What I understood then was that those who are engaged in designing, collecting and analyzing data in fact prepare the paper and they usually take the lead role in authorship while the research adviser being a mentor and senior scientist accepts the responsibility of corresponding authorship. The corresponding author’s duty involves overall accountability for the paper that includes crosschecking data factuality, ethical implications and communication with the journal’s editorial office....