Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology
Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology
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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2  

Authorship: Credit those who deserve it

Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, Professor & Head, Department of Periodontics, Dental College, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal - 795 004, Manipur, India

Date of Web Publication7-Jan-2021

Correspondence Address:
Ashish Kumar
Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology, Professor & Head, Department of Periodontics, Dental College, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal - 795 004, Manipur
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jisp.jisp_798_20

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How to cite this article:
Kumar A. Authorship: Credit those who deserve it. J Indian Soc Periodontol 2021;25:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Kumar A. Authorship: Credit those who deserve it. J Indian Soc Periodontol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Oct 26];25:1-2. Available from:

Authorship of an article is many times contentious issue. Publications are required for career progression and promotions, citations, grants and for many more reasons. The authorship issues have ethical implications as scientific integrity demands that only those responsible for the scientific work should be credited.

Many journals follow the guidelines given by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).[1] The guidelines (taken verbatim from original document of ICMJE to convey exactly what it intends to) state the that each author of a paper should meet following four criteria:

  1. Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  3. Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  4. Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

These authorship criteria are envisioned to credit the status of authorship for those who deserve it and are accountable for the work. Another thing which has to be clear to everyone is that the individuals who fulfil the criteria 1 should have the opportunity to meet criterion #s 2 or 3. These criteria should not be used to disqualify or prohibit colleagues from authorship who otherwise are eligible for authorship as per criteria 1 by disallowing them the prospect to meet criterion #s 2 or 3.[1] Also, authorship status should not be conferred to someone on the basis of exclusively writing or editing a manuscript.

The important aspect of authorship is the recognition of substantive intellectual contributions made to a paper, and also the authors should take responsibility and be answerable for what is published.[1]

Substantial intellectual contribution is the main stay and should be the guiding principle. Individuals helping in research related tasks which are non-intellectual, e.g., someone helping by just supervising, or in obtaining data, or in statistical interpretation or acquiring funding or a fellow colleague only providing some new material and should not be given authorship. All those people who have helped in research but do not fulfil all the four criteria should be acknowledged and not be granted authorship.[1]

There are many other contentious issues with authorship, e.g., the authorship order, the ghost authorship, gift authorship and honorary authorship.

Authorship order means the order in which the authors are listed in a publication. Some journals follow alphabetical order, whereas in others, the order is based on degree of contribution. Based on the amount of contribution, the first author is generally with the individual adding the maximum value to research and the last author representing the most senior researcher under whose supervision is the research being conducted. Although, this can create disputes with regards to who deserves first and subsequent authorship. The best way is to discuss the authorship order at the initiation of project depending on the quantum of work and order may be modified in between if it is required.

Ghost authorship means leaving out authors who deserve to be credited. It is very commonly seen, when, postgraduates who had hard time during their tenure as post-graduate student, pass out of their dental schools/colleges and tend to publish their dissertation work without including the names of their guide, co-guides, co-investigators and head of the department (HOD). Ghost authorship is also seen in pharmaceutical industry where the industry researchers who conduct the research on behalf of a pharmaceutical company are not credited for their work.

”Polyauthoritis giftosa” was a term coined by Dr V K Kapoor in 1995 while writing in Lancet about gift authorship.[2] Gift authorship is basically including someone's name as author in a publication without any contribution. Again, it is very commonly seen in dental schools and colleges, when freshers pass out and join a dental school/college as senior lecturers and include the name of their new colleagues and HOD as authors, when they intend to publish research work (especially dissertation) or cases (which were done during their post-graduation and new colleagues and HOD have no role in that research unless the individual joins his parent institution) just to please and be in their good books. Many times the names of family and friends, also appear in the list of authors, even if they have nothing to do, with, not only research, but the subject itself.

This problem gets compounded where journals allow limited number of authors to be listed. In a tendency to “please the new” and “ignore the old”, gift authorship and ghost authorship can be observed simultaneously. The problem lies, not only with the primary author trying to be unethical by excluding real contributors, but also with the individuals who happily accept this offer of names being included and becoming “authors” without any substantial role just for a publication. The question we need to answer to ourselves before we accept such an offer is – Is it worth to place our scientific integrity and reputation at stake, just to have one extra publication to our credit? Ethically, use of ghost authorship and guest authorship alone or together means deceiving the scientific community. Authors involved in it may lose credibility if the researchers originally involved in study decide to raise this issue with the journal editor.

Honorary authorship is also a type of gift authorship in which an individual's name is included as an author despite any significant contributions to the research. Many times it is conferred out of respect and for appreciation to an individual. Sometimes senior investigators or departmental heads are included irrespective of their contribution in the research.

Addition of a well-known author as honorary author is sometimes used to deceptively enhance the value of the paper although the paper does not command it. Industry sponsored papers sometimes include academic authors to provide validity to research and conceal the relationship with the sponsoring industry.

Every research and case report published in JISP mentions the department where the research was conducted or from where the case was reported. This aspect gives credit to the department where the research was conducted or cases were treated, but also indirectly in many instances (but not all) can give fair idea to readers about ghost and gift authors, if there are any in the publication. Although this inference may be generally correct in most of the cases but cannot be universally applied. Many times researches' change their institutions and affiliations by the time there research is published. The designations also change with time. So we have to be careful in interpreting gift authorship and ghost authorship from affiliations of authors.

Let us keep the authorship woes at bay and not put our reputation at stake for the credit which we do not deserve. Let us maintain scientific integrity by generously crediting those who deserve it.

”Giving credit where credit is due is a very rewarding habit to form. Its rewards are inestimable”

-Loretta Young

   References Top

Available from: committee of medical journal editors. Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 Nov 23].  Back to cited text no. 1
Kapoor VK. Polyauthoritis giftosa. Lancet 1995;346:1039.  Back to cited text no. 2


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