Volume 32, Issue 117 (April 2019)                   IJN 2019, 32(117): 1-6 | Back to browse issues page

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Joolaee S. “Editorial Letter” Managing Authorship Conflicts: A Guide for Researchers. IJN 2019; 32 (117) :1-6
URL: http://ijn.iums.ac.ir/article-1-2876-en.html
Professor, Nursing Care Research Center, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran. Research Coordinator, Center for Health Evaluation & Outcome Sciences (CHEOS), Providence Health Care, Vancouver, Canada
Abstract:   (3568 Views)
Nowadays, the issue of Authorship has increasingly expanded in the academic world and has resulted in a lot of problems for scholars and the editorial board of scientific Journals. Given the increasing number of postgraduate students and subsequent research activities, every day we witness the formal and informal arguments on the ambiguity and unfairness of decisions regarding authors' names and the dissatisfaction of students and professors in this regard. These discontents make it clearer that there is an urgent need for the policies that address the road map for researchers. Knowing about these policies and their practical application can play an effective role in preventing potential misuse and managing common disputes over authorship.
Authorship is a proper method of assigning responsibility and giving credit for doing intellectual work to individuals. The credit is given to an individual to collaborate on research and its importance in fostering reputation and support for academic promotion for the author and increasing the strength and credibility of the affiliated organizations.
Individuals violate ethical principles in authorship in a variety of ways; sometimes by placing names of people who did not have a role in doing research or played a very small role, and sometimes by removing the names of people who have been involved in a part of the research. Preventing such events is always better than confronting it after the occurrence.
Many academic institutions and organizations, such as universities and research institutes, have developed standards for authorship, although they are similar in basic principles, may vary somewhat over time and from one discipline to another. Various motivations may reinforce the temptation to violate these standards and fundamental principles in individuals. For example, young researchers may believe that putting senior faculty names in the list of authors can increase the credibility of the paper and the chance of accepting it for publication, or not placing the names of people who own power, would endanger their job position. Sometimes, investment in expanding job and research opportunities and receiving financial support may encourage researchers to add people's names, conflicting with the authorship standards.
The responsibility for deciding to give authorship credit when publishing the results of research activities in journals is to those who have conducted the research. Sometimes there may be disagreements about the authors of the product of an intellectual effect, which usually interfere with the work. Researchers need to be aware of and apply the principles of authorship, which usually referred to in the section of author’s guideline in each journal. As well, the documentation of ethical codes in publications should always be considered an acceptable source.
One of the important points to prevent possible disagreements is that the authorship criteria are agreed upon by all members of the research team in the first phase of the research. Whenever possible, it is recommended that written records of authorship decisions be maintained by the team leader and, if necessary, revised by the team members according to the role and participation of individuals during the research.
Harvard Medical Schoo considers the basic principles of authorship as:
  • Having a significant and direct contribution to the work from conceptual development to design, analysis, and/ interpretation of data.
  • Motivating and guiding intellectually for the basic idea and supporting the continuity of work. (It should be noted that financial support does not include the criteria for authorship).
  • In research conducted by specialized teams, individual engagement and responsibility may be limited to certain aspects of work, but everyone should be involved in writing the article and finalizing its final version. 
  • The corresponding author, even if does not have a deep understanding of any specialized part of the work, must have a complete understanding of the overall work.
  • The corresponding author should ensure that all authors have the basic standards of authorship, and she/he should have a written brief description of their participation in the research process to provide the editor.
The order of authors may be determined in different ways in different countries, organizations, and research groups. One of the common ways to determine the order of the authors is based on each author’s contribution, and who has been the leader of the research and writing of the article. In some cases, the most experienced person is considered the last author and correspondence, and sometimes the names may be mentioned in alphabetical order. Usually, selection based on the roles and responsibilities of people in the research, and then in writing the article, is more common than other methods. In this way, it is expected that the first author will have the greatest role in doing the work.
Sometimes the names of people are on the list of authors who have not played any role in the work. These people may be in the role of head of the department or influential people. On the other hand, you may add your friends’ names to your list, hoping that he will do the same for you. These people are called "honorary authors," and adding their names is conflicting with the principles of publication ethics.
The International Committee of Medical Journals Editors (ICMJE) in 2018 made recommendations for conducting, reporting, editing, and disseminating scientific works in medical journals, according to which authorship has four essential requirements:
  • Having a significant contribution to designing, collecting, analyzing or interpreting data
  • Preparing the draft of a paper or accurately reviewing and criticizing its intellectual content
  • Reviewing and approving the final version of the article before its publication
  • Agreeing to address all aspects of work and ensuring that questions about the accuracy or integrity of each part of work are appropriately considered and resolved.
Each person on the list of authors, in addition to taking responsibility for the parts of the work that has personally done, must be able to recognize the roles of other authors. Also, those who have contributed to the performance of the project, or compilation of the article, but their participation was not so much that they can be on the authors’ list, should be appreciated in the acknowledgment section.
The above items are a general guide, and different disciplines or journals may apply different standards in their field. For example, some journals emphasize that all those designated as authors must meet all four ICMJE criteria for authorship. The corresponding author is responsible for identifying the individuals who meet these criteria. Other responsibilities of the corresponding author include communicating with the journal when submitting a manuscript, determining the contribution of individuals to the research work, and ensuring the fulfillment of all the administrative requirements of the journal, such as providing correct details of authors, ethics committee approvals, trial registration records and the form of conflict of interest. The corresponding author also receives comments from the reviewers and the final version of the paper for approval by the authors. However, these tasks may be assigned to one or more colleagues by prior agreement.
The corresponding author must be identified before the start of the work, and when a large team with several authors have conducted a research, the team should ideally decide who is going to be in the author's list. All members of the team that are supposed to be in the list of authors need to meet all four criteria for authorship, including the review and approval of the final version of the paper, and be able to assume overall responsibility of the work and responsibility for the accuracy of the work of other authors in the team. However, when there are disagreements among authors, it is imperative to follow the instructions of the Publication Ethics Committee or the recommendations of the editors of medical journals and other guidelines in this area. But first and foremost, developing and strengthening of an ethical culture in the field of publications is a key issue that professors are expected to take into account and act as a role model in their academic role with both their students and colleagues. Speaking about this issue from the beginning of the work and making a decision about it before writing an article, can be very effective in preventing future disagreements.
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Type of Study: Research | Subject: nursing
Received: 2019/01/2 | Accepted: 2019/04/6 | Published: 2019/04/6

1. https://publicationethics.org/resources/guidelines-new/how-handle-authorship-disputesa-guide-new-researchers
2. https://hms.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/assets/Sites/Ombuds/files/AUTHORSHIP%20GUIDELINES.pdf
3. https://www.bmj.com/about-bmj/resources-authors/article-submission/authorship-contributorship
4. https://www.research-integrity.admin.cam.ac.uk/research-integrity/guidelines/guidelines-authorship
5. http://www.icmje.org/recommendations

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