June 15, 2020

Wileidys Artigas

Gift Authorship and Gost Authorship: Revealing malpractices in authoring of scientific documents

When talking about research ethics, there are many edges to refer to, one of them has to do with authorship, the decisions made regarding the order in which the names of the authors will be arranged and the elements to be taken in account for someone to be considered the author of an article, paper or scientific document.

Many associations have given their opinion in this regard, offering to journals and institutions some elements to request to corroborate the authorship of the documents; some have even pointed out the characteristics that a person must have to be considered an author. For this reason, some journals choose to attach an author contribution declaration format to request information on the way in which each author has participated in the preparation of the work.

In this regard, two terms in particular have become popular: Gift Authorship and Ghost Authorship[1]. The first of them refers to the practice of including authors who have not participated in the preparation of the document, but from whom it is possible to obtain some type of benefit: either because they are a recognized author who will be accepted in a journal, a researcher who promises reciprocity for future research work, or the interest of "collaborating" in increasing productivity due to the existence of family or friendship relations, among others. In general, the author who is given a space as a consequence of these practices has a high hierarchy in the organization or in the work team; reason why the journals have chosen to add a section of thanks to include those who have contributed to the area of ​​knowledge or donated resources, among other things; although they may be recognized for their work, they do not meet the criteria for authorship.

The second generally involves people of low hierarchical level such as graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, visiting researchers or perhaps research assistants who carry out tasks that could be considered authorship when systematizing the results, collecting and classifying information, among other; but they are not included in the work because it is considered a minor task.

In anycase, both actions lack ethics, since the first adds people who have not collaborated in the preparation of the document, while the second stops naming people who have made contributions to the realization of the document but who are ignored because they are at a low level of hierarchy or not having sufficient authority.

It can be added to this, the false beliefs that having participated or figured as an advisor to a degree or master's work is sufficient merit to belong to the list of authors of articles or papers derived from this work; but this is the subject of another blog. Let us remember that through our ethical research actions we are educating the relay generation that learns from us!

[1] Gollogly,L; Momen, H. (2006). Ethical dilemmas in scientific publication: pitfalls and solutions for editors. Rev. Saúde Publica, 40 (num. Esp), 24-29.

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