Observations Yankee Doodling

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BMJ 2008; 336 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39563.567847.94 (Published 01 May 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:989
  1. Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist, RTI International, and associate editor, BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}rti.org

    The latest revelations about ghost authorship of journal articles are truly frightening

    Authorship issues are a common obsession of medical journal editors. We fuss about them a great deal, fretting about who contributed what to a paper, who was responsible for the work and its conclusions, and what should qualify a contributor to assume the august title of “author.” The quantity and, to a lesser extent, the quality of authored publications have a lot to do with who gets promoted in academia, who gets tenured, and who gets jobs at prestigious universities. So naturally there is a great desire among academics to get their names on as many papers as possible, preferably at the head of the (often lengthy) list of authors.

    I don’t think anyone in the outside world cares much about all of this. It’s easy to make fun of the competition, quibbling, and controversy surrounding authorship by reminding everyone of the old saw that the reason the politics are so intense in academic medicine is that the stakes are so low. After all, who is really harmed if a few old …

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