Reflections on the History and Ethics of the Proper Attribution and Misappropriation of Merit


One would expect that the first to arrive at a new observation, discovery, or concept would be properly acknowledged as such. Unfortunately, it is not unusual that someone else receives the credit. This is not just unfair and unethical, but it also distorts the history of science. In addition, the victims of misattribution are deeply affected by losing not only the recognition of being first, but also the credit, kudos, and other benefits that derive from their contribution. This issue deserves far more attention than it currently receives. It continues to cause much mischief in the most unexpected places and under circumstances that should not be tolerated. This article looks at the consequences of some instances of misattribution in the history of science and argues that researchers should make a stronger effort to expose and rectify such cases. In most instances, all that is required is to double-check the data.