Controversies related to the concept and practice of responsible authorship and its misuse have been among the most prominent issues discussed in the recent literature on research integrity. Therefore, this paper aims to address the factors that lead to two major types of unethical authorship, namely, honorary and ghost authorship. It also highlights negative consequences of authorship misuse and provides a critical analysis of different authorship guidelines, including a recent debate on the amendments of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) authorship definition. Empirical studies revealed that honorary authorship was the most prevalent deviation from the responsible authorship standards. Three different modalities of honorary authorship were distinguished: gift authorship
, guest authorship
, and coercive authorship
. Prevalence of authorship misuse worldwide and in Europe was alarmingly high, covering approximately one third of all scientific publications. No significant differences were reported in authorship misuse between different health research disciplines. The studies conducted in North America highlighted the most effective means to cope with unethical authorship. These were training in publishing ethics, clear authorship policies developed by medical schools, and explicit compliance with the authorship criteria required by the medical journals. In conclusion, more empirical research is needed to raise awareness of the high prevalence of authorship misuse among scientists. Research integrity training courses, including publication ethics and authorship issues should be integrated into the curricula for students and young researchers in medical schools. Last but not least, further discussion on responsible authorship criteria and practice should be initiated.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited