Honorary authorship in radiologic research articles: assessment of frequency and associated factors

Radiology. 2011 May;259(2):479-86. doi: 10.1148/radiol.11101500. Epub 2011 Mar 8.


Purpose: To quantify the frequency of perceived honorary authorship in radiologic journals and to identify specific factors that increase its prevalence.

Materials and methods: This study qualified for exempt status by the institutional review board. An electronic survey was sent to first authors of all original research articles published in Radiology and European Radiology over 3 years. Questions included guidelines used for determining authorship, contributions of coauthors, the perception of honorary authorship, and demographic information. Univariable analysis of sample proportions was performed by using χ(2) tests. Multivariable logistic regression models were used to assess the independent factors that were associated with the probability of perceiving honorary authorship.

Results: Of the 392 (29.3%) of 1338 first authors who responded to the survey, 102 (26.0%) perceived that one or more coauthors did not make sufficient contributions to merit being included as an author. Of the 392 respondents, 231 (58.9%) stated that one or more coauthors performed only "nonauthor" tasks according to International Committee of Medical Journal Editors criteria. Factors associated with an increased first-author perception of honorary authorship included lower academic rank (adjusted odds ratio [OR]: 2.89; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.66, 5.06), as well as working in an environment in which the section or department head was automatically listed as an author (adjusted OR: 3.80; 95% CI: 2.13, 6.79). The percentage of honorary authorship was significantly higher (P = .019) among respondents who did not follow journal requirements for authorship.

Conclusion: The rate of perceived honorary authorship (overall, 26.0%) was substantially more frequent among respondents of lower academic rank and in those working in an environment in which their section or department head was automatically listed as an author.

Supplemental material: http://radiology.rsna.org/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1148/radiol.11101500/-/DC1.

MeSH terms

  • Authorship*
  • Bibliometrics
  • Biomedical Research*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Editorial Policies
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Peer Review
  • Periodicals as Topic / standards*
  • Publishing / standards*
  • Radiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires