Time to redefine authorship

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7033.723 (Published 23 March 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:723
  1. Richard Horton,
  2. Richard Smith

    A conference to do so

    Physicists do it by the hundred; scientists do it in groups; fiction writers mostly alone. And medical researchers? Rarely now do they write papers alone, and the number of authors on papers is increasing steadily.1 Under pressure from molecular biologists, the National Library of Medicine in Washington is planning to list not just the first six authors in Index Medicus but the first 24 plus the last author.2 Notions of authorship are clearly in the eye of the beholder, and many authors on modern papers seem to have made only a minimal contribution.3 4 5 Few authors on modern multidisciplinary medical papers fit the 19th century notion of taking full responsibility for every word and thought included, and yet the cumbersome definition of authorship produced by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (the Vancouver Group) is based on that concept.6 The definition produced by editors seems to be out of touch with what is happening in the real world of research, and researchers …

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