Gift authorship, guest authorship, and surprise authorship – common abuses of authorship

If you are a scientist or technician working at a federal research laboratory or a research university, probably you have experienced or at least heard about abuses of authorship. An article written by Joseph Flotemersch and Justicia Rhodus summarizes several common cases of abuse of authorship reported in the literature. For instance, it is surprisingly common to include someone who has not contributed directly to the work as a coauthor just to increase the credibility of the research or the likelihood of publication (guest authorship). Perhaps, a more serious case is authorship given to a person who has not contributed to the work but directly or indirectly demands authorship because he or she is the head of a branch or the direct supervisor of the lead author (gift authorship). Another case, which is somewhat rare, is when an individual unknowingly finds his or her name on a publication without having contributed to the work or accepted responsibility for the published work (surprise authorship). Of course, these cases are all unethical and undermine the scientific integrity of the involving agency or institution and authors.

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Flotemersch, J. E. & Rhodus, J. (2016). Authorship Guidance in a Federal Research Laboratory: A Case Study. Science Editor, 39(1), 1-10.

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