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Ongoing ethical issues concerning authorship in biomedical journals: an integrative review

Authors Kornhaber R, McLean L, Baber R

Received 29 April 2015

Accepted for publication 26 May 2015

Published 30 July 2015 Volume 2015:10(1) Pages 4837—4846

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/IJN.S87585

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Zhaogang Yang

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Thomas J Webster


Rachel Anne Kornhaber,1,2 Loyola M McLean,3–5 Rodney J Baber6,7

1Faculty of Health, School of Health Sciences, University of Tasmania, Alexandria, New South Wales, 2School of Nursing, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, 3Brain and Mind Centre and Westmead Psychotherapy Program, Discipline of Psychiatry, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, 4Sydney West and Greater Southern Psychiatry Training Network, Cumberland Hospital, Western Sydney Local Health District, 5Parramatta Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney, 6Discipline of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Neonatology, Sydney Medical School, 7Royal North Shore Hospital, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Abstract: Health professionals publishing within the field of health sciences continue to experience issues concerning appropriate authorship, which have clinical, ethical, and academic implications. This integrative review sought to explore the key issues concerning authorship from a bioethical standpoint, aiming to explore the key features of the authorship debate. Studies were identified through an electronic search, using the PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and Scopus databases of peer-reviewed research, published between 2009 and 2014, limited to English language research, with search terms developed to reflect the current issues of authorship. From among the 279 papers identified, 20 research papers met the inclusion criteria. Findings were compiled and then arranged to identify themes and relationships. The review incorporated a wide range of authorship issues encompassing equal-credited authors, honorary (guest/gift) and ghost authorship, perception/experiences of authorship, and guidelines/policies. This review suggests that the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ (ICMJE) recommended guidelines for authorship are not reflected in current authorship practices within the domain of health sciences in both low- and high-impact-factor journals. This devaluing of the true importance of authorship has the potential to affect the validity of authorship, diminish the real contributions of the true authors, and negatively affect patient care.

Keywords: authorship, bioethics, equal credit, ghost, honorary, ICMJE

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