Honorary authorship and equal gender representation are two pressing matters in scientific research. Honorary authorship is the inclusion of authors who do not meet the criteria established by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) authorship guidelines. The inclusion of honorary authors in the medical literature has led to an increase of the number of authors on studies and a decrease in single author studies in various fields.
Our primary objective was to assess authorship trends in two major pulmonology journals (selected on the basis of Google Scholar rankings): Thorax and American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. We reviewed all articles published in both journals in the years 1994, 2004, and 2014 using Web of Science and extracted data such as number of authors and gender of the first and last authors.
The total number of authors steadily increased from 1994 to 2014. The median number of authors grew from about four in 1994 to nearly seven in 2014, which is approximately a 75% increase. When we compiled all the data, we found the percentage of female authors from both journals had increased from 17% to 29.9% during the study period.
We found an increase in the average number of authors on pulmonology publications between 1994 and 2014 as well as an increase in the number of females with a lead or main author position. This may be due to a variety of factors, such as increased team science. However, our data in conjunction with data from other areas of medicine, indicate that honorary authorship may be contributing to the trends we identified.
Umberham, B., et al. (2018). “Authorship inflation and author gender in pulmonology research.” bioRxiv. doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/446385
Publisher (Open Access): https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/446385v1.full