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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 53-54
Preventing the possible misuse of higher academic positions in availing undeserved authorship in publications

Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Yenepoya Dental College and Hospital, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya University, Mangaluru, Karnataka, India

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Date of Web Publication17-Aug-2016


Being an author in a peer-reviewed publication is vital in academia. It is possible that there might be an undetected misuse of higher academic positions for availing undeserved authorship in scientific papers. This article highlights the possible undetected unethical practice and suggests measures to curb this menace.

Keywords: Academic, college, pressure authorship, publishing, scientific, unethical, university

How to cite this article:
Shanbhag VL. Preventing the possible misuse of higher academic positions in availing undeserved authorship in publications. J Educ Ethics Dent 2015;5:53-4

How to cite this URL:
Shanbhag VL. Preventing the possible misuse of higher academic positions in availing undeserved authorship in publications. J Educ Ethics Dent [serial online] 2015 [cited 2018 Jul 17];5:53-4. Available from: http://www.jeed.in/text.asp?2015/5/2/53/188570

Publishing regular good quality scientific articles is necessary for survival in the highly competitive academic field. The main goal of any scientific publishing is to ensure that readers get their knowledge updated about current science and research. Publishing additionally helps academicians to exhibit their skills and knowledge and to increase their creativity and contribute to the new innovations/ideas in the field of science and research.

Though, the recognition of publication activity was implemented with the good intention to enhance the dissemination of science and to cultivate creativity, it is possible that those who are in higher academic positions may well avail undeserved authorship through the backdoor. This might not be detected, as it is difficult to practically prove such incidences. It may well be possible that some senior academicians holding high powerful and responsible positions, such as the position of the Head of the Department, are misusing their influential positions to avail undeserved authorship in scientific articles published by their junior staff and postgraduate students and that too without any sort of involvement. [1] In that case, it would be a pity to see that the responsible positions that were created to monitor, protect, and enhance the growth of academic activity are themselves misusing their position and implementing and promoting unethical authorship practice.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) and the Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE) authorship criteria for journals clearly mention that only those authors who significantly and substantially contribute to the paper/study in addition to approval of its final version before publishing, qualify for authorship. [2],[3] In addition, just giving input; providing materials and equipment; financial funding, providing manpower; access to clinics, laboratories, and hospitals; and being a chair or a departmental head does not qualify one for authorship. [4] However, what could be possibly happening within the academia is that this important ethical instruction of authorship is disregarded and ethically not followed, despite being clearly stated in the instructions in the Authors' section of journals. The journal editors are not aware of these types of unethical authorship issues, as no juniors dare to bring notice/complain about this issue to the editors for the fear of damaging their own future/job. Additionally, the signed author form is sent to the journal editors without any air of suspicion. In some cases, there is an agreement within the faculty members that they will be granted guest authorship [2] in other future departmental papers if they follow the unethical pressure authorship advice. So, this unethical issue goes on smoothly, without any detection or evidence. The juniors who do not follow this unethical practice of pressured authorship [4] may possibly be given a silent treatment, sidelined, or discriminated in routine departmental academic activities. The juniors may well feel that in spite of their hard work, their credit has been unethically stolen. This unethical trend has a danger of discouraging the juniors from engaging with their scientific creativity and curiosity and has a negative impact on their performance. In addition, there is a risk of themselves being implementing these unethical practices in the future after attaining higher positions.

This unhealthy practice of authorship has a detrimental undermining effect on the quality of scientific works and creativity and needs to be curbed effectively. A competitive committee should be instituted by the college/university to look up into these unethical practices or allegations. The salary, increment, incentives, and promotions given to the guilty should be withheld and cut off. Strict actions such as expelling from their current position should be implemented in case of repeat offenders. Colleges/universities should encourage/motivate academic faculties to publish at least two compulsory articles with single authorship in PubMed/Scopus indexed journals every year. Additionally, the colleges/universities should issue a circular to all of its departments making them aware of the full ethical criteria of authorship and ensuring that every faculty and postgraduate students have seen it and are aware of the ethical authorship practices. It should be instructed in the circular that the juniors/faculties are to report the instituted competitive committee if any deviation in ethical authorship is experienced. These measures will not only improve the performance of every junior/faculty member, but in addition, will stop the possibly undetected unethical practices of undeserved pressure and guest authorship.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Sivapathasundharam B. Tooth carving. Indian J Dent Res 2008;19:181.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
Juyal D, Thawani V, Thaledi S, Prakash A. The fruits of authorship. Educ Health (Abingdon) 2014;27:217-20.  Back to cited text no. 2
Committee on publication ethics. International standards for authors. 2010. Available from: [Last accessed on 2015 Dec 18].  Back to cited text no. 3
Vasconcelos S, Vasgird D, Ichikawa I, Plemmons D. Authorship guidelines and actual practice: Are they harmonized in different research systems? J Microbiol Biol Educ 2014;15:155-8.  Back to cited text no. 4

Correspondence Address:
Vagish Kumar L Shanbhag
Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Yenepoya Dental College and Hospital, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya University, Mangaluru - 575 018, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-7761.188570

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