The ethics of bylines: Would the real authors please stand up?

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A young faculty member in an academic surgical department has completed a manuscript for submission to a professional journal with a high impact score. The concept, involving outcome comparison of two techniques for placement of vascular stents, was entirely his own. He prepared the Institutional Review Board submission, collected the data, and wrote the first draft of the resultant paper. A senior faculty member made periodic helpful suggestions throughout the design and data-gathering phases and offered sensible editorial advice after reading the manuscript. A departmental statistician ran the data. The mentor and the statistician suggested that the principal investigator add some faculty colleagues to the by-line of the journal submission, pointing out that this time-honored practice would likely result in his own inclusion as an author on their subsequent publications, thereby thickening his curriculum vitae and hastening his eligibility for faculty promotion and tenure. One of the faculty members suggested for honorary authorship publishes widely, and it's pointed out to the young investigator that this man's prominence may very well improve the paper's chances of acceptance by the journal. The other man recommended for inclusion as an author has not had a single article appear in the literature for years but performed the surgery on about half the patients used for one of his comparison groups. Neither the statistician nor either of the people recommended as "honorary" coauthors have read the manuscript. What should the young investigator do? Copyright © 2005 by The Society for Vascular Surgery.




Jones, J. W., McCullough, L. B., & Richman, B. W. (2005). The ethics of bylines: Would the real authors please stand up? Journal of Vascular Surgery, 42(4), 816–818.

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