Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Academic Authorship

Time to kill the scientific “author”?

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 08 December 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6560
  1. Ben Adams, freelance healthcare journalist, Chichester, UK
  1. benjohnadams26{at}

The scourge of ghost writing seems to be diminishing while the problem of guest authorship is growing. Is it time to rethink the system? Ben Adams reports

Controversies over the role of the author in science publishing come in waves. Back in the 1990s and early 2000s the phenomenon of ghost writing was a dominant concern. Aspenberg’s troubling account shows that the problem persists.1 But today, guest authorship, where someone who made little or no contribution to a piece is a named author, is even more pervasive, some experts say. “This includes those who simply insist that they have their name in the article,” explains Elizabeth Wager, former chair of the Committee on Publication Ethics. “It’s a career limiting move not to put the head of department’s …

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