Ghost Authorship Prevalent in About One-Fifth of Articles

Prevalence of honorary, ghost authorship, down from 29.2 to 21.0 percent from 1996 to 2008

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 26 (HealthDay News) -- The prevalence of articles with honorary authorship, ghost authorship, or both is 21 percent, which marks a significant decrease since 1996, according to a study published online Oct. 25 in BMJ.

Joseph S. Wislar, from the American Medical Association in Chicago, and colleagues compared the prevalence of honorary and ghost authors in six leading medical journals in 2008 with the prevalence reported in 1996. The corresponding authors from 896 research articles, review articles, and editorials/opinion articles published in six high-impact factor, general medical journals were surveyed. The main outcome measured was self-reported compliance with criteria for authorship from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors for all authors on the selected articles.

The investigators found that, of the 630 corresponding authors who responded, the prevalence of articles with honorary authorship, ghost authorship, or both was 21.0 percent, marking a significant reduction from 29.2 percent reported in 1996. Of the 545 responses on honorary authorship, 17.6 percent of articles had honorary authors, which was not significantly different from the 19.3 percent reported in 1996 (P = 0.439). Of the 622 responses on ghost authorship, 7.9 percent of articles had ghost authors, which marked a significant decline from the 11.5 percent reported in 1996. The prevalence of honorary authorship for original research reports, reviews, and editorials was 25, 15, and 11.2 percent, respectively. For ghost authorship, the prevalence was 11.9, 6.0, and 5.3 percent, respectively.

"The results of this study should raise awareness among the scientific community about the importance of ensuring appropriate authorship credit and responsibility," the authors write.

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