Several studies suggest that deviations from proper authorship practices are commonplace in medicine. The aim of this study was to explore experiences of and attitudes towards the handling of authorship in PhD theses at medical faculties in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.
This open access paper, published in December 2022, and the survey it reports points to a disconcerting problem in authorship and PhD training. Even though this work was conducted in Scandinavia. Despite training of students in appropriate authorship practice (only awarding authorship to individuals who meet the standard of guidelines produced by bodies such as ICJME and COPE), the practice of awarding underserved authorship remains common to a troubling degree. These poor results are unlikely to be only a bad sign for Scandinavia, we suspect that similar results would be found in other countries. In addition to the obvious, they are of concern because they reflect a practice of encouraging students to commit research misconduct and also encouraging them to see standards as not applying to their research practice.
287 valid questionnaires were returned (response rate: 34.1%). Almost half (46.0%) of the respondents reported that the ICMJE authorship criteria were not fully respected in at least one of the papers in their thesis, while a vast majority (96.7%) found it important that authorship is handled according to the ICMJE authorship criteria. 24.4% reported inadequate handling of authorship order in at least one paper. The qualitative results provide a wide spectrum of examples of how the ICMJE authorship criteria are circumvented.
Despite increasing educational efforts to reduce deviations from good research practice at Scandinavian universities, the handling of authorship in medical papers remains problematic.
Helgesson, G., Holm, S., Bredahl, L. et al. Misuse of co-authorship in Medical PhD Theses in Scandinavia: A Questionnaire Survey. J Acad Ethics (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-022-09465-1
Publisher (Open Access): https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10805-022-09465-1