1. Bliss, Donna Zimmaro PhD, RN, FAAN, Associate Editor

Article Content

Nurse researchers who plan to publish with their students are confronted with numerous issues about authorship for which there is little guidance. Many of us have followed the same authorship guidelines and conventions as our colleagues in medical research only to witness accounts of how that system is "broken" (Smith, 1997a). Expositions of honorary, obligatory, gift, ghost, and dissenting authors in the medical literature continue (Flanagan, Carey, Fontanarosa, Phillips, Pace et al. 1998;Horton, 2002;Shapiro, Wegner, Shapiro, 1994;Togoni & Roncaglioni, 1995). Data are lacking to refute similar occurrences in the nursing literature.


If these issues could be attributed to a few rogue authors, we could censure them and return to our writing. However, similar issues arise in most co-authored research manuscripts. The criteria for authorship supported by the International Academy of Nursing Editors are similar to those adopted by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, 1985;King, McGuire, Longman, Carroll-Johnson, 1997;Nativo, 1993). They recommend that authorship credit be determined by the investigators and based on substantial contribution to conceiving and designing the study, analyzing or interpreting the data, and writing or critically reviewing and approving the manuscript. The requirement of meeting all of these criteria has been criticized as inappropriate; too restrictive (especially for junior team members); and out of touch with the realities of multidisciplinary team research and the critical but limited contributions of "specialist" team members (Bhopal, Rankin, McColl, Thomas, Kaner et al., 1997). A few prominent medical journals are experimenting with a new system that recognizes contributors and guarantors rather than authors (Rennie, Yank, & Emanuel, 1997;Smith, 1997b).


One questions whether these authorship criteria are appropriate for a student member of a research team. If faculty researchers "adjust" the definition of "substantive" for the contributions of student authors as compared to those of the experienced members of the research team, are they guilty of bestowing gift authorship? Should there be separate criteria and bylines for student authors? Student authorship is further obscured when the student is employed by the faculty researcher. How student-worker contributions differ from salaried staff is unclear.


Others problems arise for faculty researchers and student advisees when students fail to disseminate the results of their studies in a timely way-or ever. Some faculty researchers have developed authorship agreements with students and specify a deadline for receipt of a draft manuscript suitable for publication after which first authorship automatically transfers to the faculty researcher. Developing an authorship agreement prior to a study is commendable and anticipates student performance. Authorship agreements can state terms for renegotiation and for faculty input needed to support writing and publication. To avoid ambiguity and misunderstanding, authorship agreements must be detailed and address common variations.


For those who reject the historical view that student researchers are apprentices whose contributions merit no more than a fine-print note in the Acknowledgment section, alternatives and guidance are lacking. As faculty researchers grapple with the current criteria for authors and the new paradigm for contributors, it is evident that publishing with students is another variable in the research process in need of better control.




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