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THE NONCONTRIBUTING AUTHOR: AN ISSUE OF CREDIT AND RESPONSIBILITY ROGER P. CROLL* Most members of the scientific community equate authorship directly widi credit and responsibility for an article. In the case of singleaudiored papers it is obvious to whom credit and responsibility are due. However, in the early 1960s Derek de Solla Price noted that there was a very rapid trend diis century away from single-audiored articles in science [I]. The trend was toward an ever increasing number of authors per article. More recent evidence suggests that this trend has continued [2, 3]. In diese more complicated cases ofmultiauthored papers, authorship is often taken to indicate significant scientific contributions to the paper's production. Contributions can be made in die design and performance of the reported experiments, in the analysis and interpretation of the results, and in the actual writing of the article. A number of different methods have been advanced to allow proper apportioning of credit to collaborating individuals who coauthor papers [4-9]. While no proposed method seems ideal, probably the one most widely used involves listing authors in descending order of the magnitude of their contributions. Despite die differences between die various methods, they are all based on a common premise, that is, that all authors actually made some significant contribution to the work. It is clear, however, diat this assumption is often not accurate. Reports in the literature indicate, for instance, that in some cases it apparendy has been to the advantage of young researchers to list an established scientist as an author, even if the scientist·did no more than read die final draft. To have published a study seemingly coaudiored widi a well-known audiority in the field may have meant an easier time widi reviewers or it may have been viewed as a help to a career. Thus credit for scientific work was traded for these other possible gains. Evi- ?Division of Natural Sciences, University of California at Santa Cruz. Present address: Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B 3H 4JI.© 1984 by The University of Chicago. AU rights reserved. 003 1-5982/84/2703-0377$01.00 Perspectives in Biology andMedicine, 27, 3 · Spring 1984 | 401 dendy, certain senior scientists do not decline authorship under diese circumstances even though the practice is generally not regarded as ediical. It is obviously an easy way to lengthen a curriculum vitae. This practice is apparently prevalent enough that it is sometimes taken for granted, and occasionally a manuscript is submitted for publication witfiout the consent or even the knowledge of one of the listed authors [3]. Anodier reason for listing noncontributing authors involves gratuitous authorship for suppliers ofdrugs, clones, viruses, and so on. In this way, a researcher responsible for isolating a unique cell line may be a coauthor on a number of papers subsequently using diat cell line [S]. Access to die biological material is traded for credit for subsequent work. This practice continues despite the fact that it is a clear violation of die principle diat authorship is a measure ofcredit and responsibility for original work reported in an article. Another common reason for the listing ofa noncontributing author is that senior scientists may demand that every paper produced in dieir laboratories be coauthored by themselves whether or not they contributed direcdy to die work. The junior personnel have litde choice. The principal investigator has the power to hire and fire. Also, antagonizing an established scientist may have deleterious effects on future grant applications or publication submissions. Since this issue of demanding credit through use of power has been addressed on a number of occasions in the literature [3, 4, 6-14], it is apparent diat certain people feel strongly about the problem. In fact, estimates ofdie prevalence of this practice based only on public declarations must undoubtedly be low. The same pressures that force junior personnel to list a noncontributing author also force them not to call attention direcdy to dieir particular situations. Thus, one would imagine diat a relatively small percentage of such abuses of power ever come to light. A more direct indication of the prevalence of this practice comes from a published survey of a selected population of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-8795
Print ISSN
0031-5982
Pages
pp. 401-407
Launched on MUSE
2015-01-07
Open Access
No
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