University Policies and Procedures
- Describe the criteria that should apply when determining authorship,
acknowledgements, the order of authors, and the size of the publishable
- Given brief descriptions of cases involving authorship, the
learner will distinguish better and worse action choices and justification
for the problems presented.
Policies and Procedures
- Authorship is at the heart of the scientific process.
- Data must be reported honestly.
- Authors must accept intellectual as well as ethical responsibility
for their publications.
- The listing and order of authors must reflect the proper credit
for the work.
- Multiple authorship is not a problem; irresponsible authorship
Topics for Discussion
Who should be an author?
- The history of publication and authorship.
What should be the order of the authors?
- Individuals who supply the funding?
- Individuals who supply the laboratory space?
- Individuals who supply the patients?
- Individuals who analyze the samples, statistically evaluate
the data, type the paper?
- Is it necessary for an author to participate in the writing
of the paper? Checking the manuscript?
- Are all the above criteria irrelevant when there are 50 authors
on a paper?
- Caelleigh, A. S., 1991; Friedman, P. J., 1993; Glass,
R. M., 1992; Lundberg, G. D. and Flanagin, A., 1989; Huth,
E. J., 1986.
Recommendations as to authorship by various professional
organizations: see articles 13-18.
Pressure to publish.
- How to determine who is first author? Last author?
Huth, E. J., 1986; Riesenberg, D. and Lundberg, G. D., 1990,
- "Salami" publishing or, the "Least Publishable
Angell, M., 1986; McCarthy, P., 1993.
- Problems, opportunities and challenges
Lyman, P., 1996.
- National Academy of Engineering, Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Research:
The following are from "Teaching the responsible conduct of
research through a case study approach; A handbook for instructors".
Association of American Medical Colleges, 1994.
From "Teaching the responsible conduct of research through
a case study approach; A handbook for instructors". Association
of American Medical Colleges, 1994. Cases/Questions: B2, B3, B4.
Case B2: Fragmented Publication
Esther Brezinska is an assistant professor at a medical school
where she has been employed in a tenure-track appointment since
completing a productive postdoctoral research fellowship five
years ago. Two years ago, she was awarded her first investigator-initiated
grant from the National Institutes of Health and is now anticipating
preparation of a competitive renewal application for submission
next year. Nest year, she also will be evaluated for promotion
to associate professor and award of tenure.
Dr. Brezinska has developed a successful technique for culturing
prostatic epithelial cells. Her NIH grant was awarded on the basis
of that success and the promise that the technique holds for testing
a variety of growth promoting and inhibitory substances. Her work
has important implications for the diagnosis and treatment of
At this juncture, Dr. Brezinska has tested two hormones and two
growth factors with positive and potentially exciting results.
Experiments utilizing five more substances are in various stages
of progress, and she has plans to test at least five additional
agents. She believes that it is time to publish these results
beyond the abstracts and poster presentations that she has regularly
presented at meetings as the work progressed. Now she faces a
The most prestigious journal in her field requests authors "not
to separate fragments of a study into individual reports, but
rather to strive for full development of a topic." On the
other hand, she suspects that the medical school’s promotion
committee emphasizes numbers of publications over the quality
of content when reviewing bibliographies of candidates for tenure.
She wonders if the NIH study section that will review her renewal
application will be similarly disposed. It would be easy to write
up the results of the first four experiments as a single report,
since they are closely related, but it might be of strategic value
to have four separate references in her curriculum vitae.
- What should be Dr. Brezinska’s primary considerations
as she evaluates how to publish her research findings in the scientific
- If she opts for publishing a few comprehensive reports, rather
than a greater number of less substantive papers, by what mechanism
can her various evaluators know that she is attempting to make
a more scholarly contribution?
- If Dr. Brezinska were at your institution, what kind of advice
would she likely get from her department chair or mentor concerning
- A Japanese scientist whom she knew as a postdoctoral fellow
has offered to translate Dr. Brezinska’s publications into
Japanese and to submit them to a Japanese language journal that
appears to be anxious to publish her work. Dr. Brezinska rationalizes
that this will increase readership of her work in Japan, enhance
her international reputation, and at the same time provide additional
titles (in Japanese) in her curriculum vitae. Would she violate
any fundamental principles in doing so?
- Dr. Gordon Ryan, an assistant professor in the Department of
Urology, has been invaluable in providing prostatic cells for
Dr. Brezinska’s studies. She, in turn, has helped him with
the technicalities of immunocytochemical procedures in his own
investigations. Dr. Ryan suggests that if each of them lists the
other as a co-author in their respective publications, both of
their prospects for promotion might be enhanced. Dr. Brezinska
suspects that a refusal to engage in this practice might jeopardize
chances for Dr. Ryan’s future cooperation. How can she resolve
this issue productively?
Case B3: Criteria for Authorship and Attribution
Bob Powell, a postdoctoral fellow in biochemistry, has just completed
a manuscript detailing the results from the first project in which
he has taken a leading role. The focus of his project has been
to discern the ways in which humans metabolize sulfites, a class
of chemicals commonly used to preserve wines and dried fruits.
Although he had developed the rough outlines of the project on
his own, he owes much to individuals both inside and outside his
lab. The assistance he received from others includes the following:
A colleague at another university, a toxicologist specializing
in food additives, shared with Bob his previous work on the in
vivo activity of sulfites, information that allowed Bob to choose
the ideal animal model for the experiment--the Abyssinian field
A friend of his, who happened to be a wildlife specialist, provided
Bob with much advice on rearing and maintaining a colony of Abyssinian
field mice such that he would have a stable pool of animal subjects.
A highly experienced technician in the lab gave Bob advice on
modifying an assay he had been using, which finally allowed him
to measure successfully sulfite metabolites in mouse urine. This
technician also assisted in writing up the methods section of
The number of assays that Bob had to conduct was quite sizable
and more than he could manage on his own, given other demands
of the project. Thus, an undergraduate college student collected
most of the urine samples and conducted the assays yielding the
Finally, a senior researcher in a neighboring lab who took an
interest in Bob’s career offered to review the initial drafts
of Bob’s paper. By the end of the writing process, this
researcher had helped Bob outline the paper, suggested a few additional
experiments that strengthened the paper’s conclusions, and
made a number of editing changes in the penultimate draft that
enhanced the paper’s clarity.
- What kind of attribution should be given to each of these individuals
who contributed in one way or another to Bob’s project?
For example, who should be recognized as an author and who should
receive an acknowledgment in the paper? Who does not merit formal
What criteria should be applied when determining whether to list
someone as an author? to note someone’s contributions in
- What are the responsibilities of authors in representing the
contributions of others?
- At what point in the process of conducting and reporting on
one’s research should decisions concerning authorship and
acknowledgments be made?
- Are decisions concerning attribution entirely Bob’s responsibility?
Should he consult with others? Why or why not?
Case B4: Courtesy Authorship
Dr. Jonathan Perry, a tenured professor, used his sabbatical
to visit the laboratory of Dr. Brian Chandler, a widely published
and respected senior scientist. During his stay in Dr. Chandler's
lab, Dr. Perry hoped to learn certain techniques of molecular
biology that he would employ in his own research. To afford Dr.
Perry this opportunity, Dr. Chandler assigned him a leading role
in a new project that the lab was undertaking. After seven months,
laboratory work on the project was completed, and Dr. Perry returned
to his own institution to begin work on a paper to report the
final results. Ultimately, many drafts of the paper were faxed
back and forth between laboratories until Dr. Perry received the
penultimate version from Dr. Chandler’s lab. On this version,
a new name, J. B. Martin, Ph.D., appeared among the authors listed.
Dr. Perry had never met Dr. Martin, never worked with him on any
technical aspect of the project, and had never heard his name
or ideas mentioned in the laboratory meetings in which the project
was planned or the results discussed.
Dr. Perry called Dr. Chandler and questioned the addition of
Dr. Martin as an author on the manuscript. Dr. Chandler stated
that, due to prior collaborations, it was a longstanding policy
to include Dr. Martin on all publications coming out of Dr. Chandler’s
laboratory. Dr. Martin’s laboratory had a reciprocal agreement,
he added. Dr. Perry stated that he did not feel that Dr. Martin
was a qualified author on this particular paper since he had not
made a significant contribution to the work being published. Dr.
Chandler replied that Dr. Perry did not have the right to question
the policy of a laboratory in which he had worked as an invited
guest. Dr. Perry maintained his position that Dr. Martin did not
belong as an author on the paper and further stated that if Dr.
Chandler insisted on including Dr. Martin’s name, then,
as first author, Dr. Perry would not allow the paper to be submitted.
Dr. Chandler responded, "Well, you can withdraw your name,
but the work was done here in my laboratory and we plan to submit
the paper for publication."
- What do you think of the reciprocal agreement between Dr. Martin’s
and Dr. Chandler’s laboratories? Were Dr. Perry’s
- Dr. Perry was a tenured professor at a different institution
from Dr. Chandler’s. Under these circumstances it may have
been relatively easy for him to voice his concerns to Dr. Chandler.
What difficulties might a postdoctoral or graduate student in
Dr. Chandler’s lab have in handling this situation? How
might those difficulties be overcome?
- The results of this project are significant and provide a novel
insight into the field that could prove beneficial to many investigators
in the area. Therefore, should Dr. Perry compromise with Dr. Chandler
so that the paper can be promptly published? Which consideration--authorship
or publication--is more important in the advancement of science?
- What do you think of Dr. Chandler’s statement in the concluding
sentence of the case? Would it be appropriate for Dr. Chandler
to proceed with publishing the paper? What are Dr. Perry’s
and Dr. Chandler’s rights with respect to the data and the
publication of the data?
- Assume that Dr. Martin in fact reviewed and commented on all
drafts of the paper in question. Could this contribution to the
effort be significant enough to merit authorship?
The following is the URL for the Regents’ policy at the University
of Minnesota regarding "Openness in Research."
Angell, M. "Publish or Perish: A Proposal." Annals
of Internal Medicine, Vol. 104, No. 2 (February 1986), pp. 261-262.
Concerned about the way in which pressures to publish have created
a diluted and unwieldy literature, the executive editor of the
New England Journal of Medicine proposes limiting the number of
papers considered for promotion or funding. This, she reasons,
would curtail attempts to pad bibliographies and leave the scientific
enterprise with a leaner and more substantive literature.
Bailar, J. C., and F. Mosteller. "Guidelines for Statistical
Reporting in Articles for Medical Journals." Annals of Internal
Medicine, Vol. 108, No. 2 (February 1988), pp. 266-273.
This article accompanies the "Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts
Submitted to Biomedical Journals" (see scientific and professional
society reports/guidelines below). It is an amplification of the
statistical reporting guidelines and identifies 15 principles
to follow in conducting and reporting on statistical analyses
of one’s work. This article is easy to follow and may prove
particularly useful for trainees who are not comfortable with
the statistical aspects of their work.
Broad, W. J. The publishing game; getting more for less. Science
Caelleigh, A. S. "Credit and Responsibility in Authorship."
(Editorial) Academic Medicine, Vol. 66, No. 11 (November 1991),
The editor of Academic Medicine discusses the ethical problems
inherent in according "honorary" authorship. She closes
by encouraging efforts by journal editors and scientists to develop
criteria and standards of authorship.
Friedman, P. J. "Standards for Authorship and Publication
in Academic Radiology." Radiology, Vol. 189, No. 1 (October
1993), pp. 33-34.
The author reports on publication standards adopted by the Association
of University Radiologists in May 1993. The standards are largely
consistent with those articulated by the International Committee
of Medical Journal Editors and include (1) granting authorship
only to individuals making intellectual contributions to the work,
(2) citing primary sources of referenced ideas and information,
(3) avoiding redundant and fragmented publication, and (4) taking
the initiative to correct or to retract incorrect published findings.
Fye, W. B. "Medical Authorship: Traditions, Trends, and
Tribulations." Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 113, No.
4 (August 15, 1990), pp. 317-325.
The author explores the history of authorship practices in the
medical sciences, describing how the historically recent emphasis
on quantity of publication as a criterion for promotion has led
to trivial, fragmented, and repetitive papers. The problems of
multiple authorships, duplicative publication, and rapid publication
are also explored.
Glass, R. M. "New Information for Authors and Readers: Group
Authorship, Acknowledgments, and Rejected Manuscripts." Journal
of the American Medical Association, Vol. 268, No. 1 (July 1992),
In this editorial, JAMA clarifies its standards with regard to
group authorship, acknowledgment, and rejected manuscripts. All
authors must sign a statement affirming that they have participated
substantially in the conception and design of the work and the
analysis of the data. Individuals making important technical contributions
may be acknowledged by name, but only with their permission. The
policy concerning rejected manuscripts was revised on January
6, 1993. Originally, JAMA stated that peer reviewers would be
asked to destroy rejected manuscripts, but this was revised to
have reviewers return manuscripts to JAMA ’s editorial staff.
Huth, E. J. "Guidelines on Authorship of Medical Papers."
Annals of Internal Medicine, Vol. 104, N. 2 (February 1986), pp.
Building on guidelines set forth by the International Committee
of Medical Journal Editors, Dr. Huth lays out five very explicit
principles to apply in determining who merits authorship on a
paper. Participation limited to the collection of data or the
provision of advice is not a contribution that of itself merits
authorship, Dr. Huth points out. These principles are further
examined in the context of specific types of publications (such
as "review articles," "articles reporting clinical,
epidemiologic, or laboratory research," and "articles
reporting a case-series analysis"). Collective authorships
and the sequence of authors are also discussed.
Lundberg, G. D., and A. Flanagin. "New Requirements for
Authors: Signed Statements of Authorship Responsibility and Financial
Disclosure." Journal of the American Medical Association,
Vol. 262, No. 14 (October 1989), pp. 203-2005.
In this statement, one of the leading medical journals announces
that (1) authors must sign a statement confirming that they meet
or will meet five responsibilities laid out in the editorial,
and (2) authors must identify in writing any financial interests
they may have in the substance of the manuscript they have submitted.
McCarthy, P. "The Paper Mill." The New Physician, Vol.
42, No. 7 (October 1993), pp. 25-27.
The author gives an overview of two troublesome publication practices
that add to the size but no to the quality of the scientific literature:
(1) repetitive publication of a single work and (2) "salami"
publishing (publishing small segments of a study in separate articles,
rather than a single article on the entire breadth of the study).
The legal and ethical problems presented by these practices, and
the means by which journals and libraries have dealt with them,
Relman, A. S. "New Information for Authors and Readers."
New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 56, No. 1 (July 5, 1990),
In this notice, Dr. Relman, editor of the journal, specifies requirements
that authors must meet in submitting abstracts and articles, many
of which deal with the basic responsibilities of authorship and
the avoidance of financial conflicts of interest.
Relman, A. S., "Publishing Biomedical Research: Roles and
Responsibilities." Hastings Center Report, Vol. 20, No. 3
(May/June 1990), pp. 23-27.
Dr. Relman reviews the responsibilities and obligations of the
three major participants in the publication process: authors,
reviewers, and editors. Dr. Relman notes that authors ’
obligations, apart from being accurate and honest, include being
economical in expression, generously acknowledging the works of
others, and avoiding premature and unseemly publicity about their
Riesenberg, D., and G. D. Lundberg. "The Order of Authorship:
Who’s on First?" Journal of the American Medical Association,
264, No. 14 (October 1990, p. 1857. Also [Letters] Vol. 265, No.
7 (February 1991), p. 865.
Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.
Washington, D.C.:American Psychological Association; 1983:20-21.
Ethical conduct in authorship and publication. IN: CBE Style
Manual Committee. CBE Style Manual. A Guide for Authors, Editors,
and Publishers in the Biological Sciences. 5th ed. Bethesda, Maryland:
Council of Biology Editors:1983:1-6.
American Chemical Soc. ACS ethical guidelines to publication
of chemical research. IN: The ACS Style Guide, Wash., D.C. Am.
Chem. Soc. 1986;217-222.
Editorial consensus on authorship and other matters. Lancet 1985:
International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Guidelines
on authorship. Br. Med. J. 1985; 291; 722.
Huth,E. J. Standards on authors’ responsibilities. (Editorial)
Ann. Int. Med. 1985; 103:797.
Lyman, P. 1996. What is a digital library? Technology, intellectual
property, and the public interest. pp. 1-33. in Books, Bricks,
and Bytes. Daedalus, 125 (#4).
The editors of JAMA propose ideas for dealing with the thorny question
of the order in which authors should be listed on a manuscript and
the degree of contribution implied by the positioning of ones name.
First and foremost all authors must substantially contribute to
the work and writing and accept responsibility for the contents
of the written work. The individual contributing most to the work
should be listed first, while those contributing in a manner not
consonant with authorship may be acknowledged. Comments were invited
by the editors and may be found in the letters that are referenced