- Jane Smith
Not usually, but it devalues the coinage of scientific publication
The fruits of authorship are usually considered to be sweet. Authorship of a scientific paper leads to grants, jobs, and reputations. This explains why many people accept the “gift” of authorship on papers to which they have contributed nothing intellectually. And, as with all presents, the givers often derive something too. They may use authorship to repay kindnesses, in exchange for authorship of another paper, or— very commonly—to credit their head of department and in so doing gain a stamp of authority on their work. Last week's revelations questioning the scientific validity of papers in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (see p 0000)1 show how the gift can turn sour. Perhaps this scandal will finally undermine gift authorship. At the very least it should make researchers think hard about the responsibilities that come with putting their names on papers.
The full details of the case, at St George's Hospital, London, have yet to emerge, but we know that an inquiry has found no evidence to support the findings of two papers written by Mr Malcolm Pearce and published in the August issue of the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Unfortunately the editor of the journal, Professor Geoffrey Chamberlain, is also a coauthor of one of the papers. We know nothing about Professor Chamberlain's role in the work, but he was quoted …