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Sci Eng Ethics. 2012 Jun;18(2):199-212. doi: 10.1007/s11948-011-9263-5. Epub 2011 Feb 11.

Authorship and responsibility in health sciences research: a review of procedures for fairly allocating authorship in multi-author studies.

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Bioethics Programs, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health, Université de Montréal, C.P. 6128, succ. Centre-ville, Montréal, QC, H3C 3J7, Canada.


While there has been significant discussion in the health sciences and ethics literatures about problems associated with publication practices (e.g., ghost- and gift-authorship, conflicts of interest), there has been relatively little practical guidance developed to help researchers determine how they should fairly allocate credit for multi-authored publications. Fair allocation of credit requires that participating authors be acknowledged for their contribution and responsibilities, but it is not obvious what contributions should warrant authorship, nor who should be responsible for the quality and content of the scientific research findings presented in a publication. In this paper, we review arguments presented in the ethics and health science literatures, and the policies or guidelines proposed by learned societies and journals, in order to explore the link between author contribution and responsibility in multi-author multidisciplinary health science publications. We then critically examine the various procedures used in the field to help researchers fairly allocate authorship.

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