Ongoing ethical issues concerning authorship in biomedical journals: an integrative review

Int J Nanomedicine. 2015 Jul 30;10:4837-46. doi: 10.2147/IJN.S87585. eCollection 2015.


Health professionals publishing within the field of health sciences continue to experience issues concerning appropriate authorship, which have clinical, ethical, and academic implications. This integrative review sought to explore the key issues concerning authorship from a bioethical standpoint, aiming to explore the key features of the authorship debate. Studies were identified through an electronic search, using the PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), and Scopus databases of peer-reviewed research, published between 2009 and 2014, limited to English language research, with search terms developed to reflect the current issues of authorship. From among the 279 papers identified, 20 research papers met the inclusion criteria. Findings were compiled and then arranged to identify themes and relationships. The review incorporated a wide range of authorship issues encompassing equal-credited authors, honorary (guest/gift) and ghost authorship, perception/experiences of authorship, and guidelines/policies. This review suggests that the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors' (ICMJE) recommended guidelines for authorship are not reflected in current authorship practices within the domain of health sciences in both low-and high-impact-factor journals. This devaluing of the true importance of authorship has the potential to affect the validity of authorship, diminish the real contributions of the true authors, and negatively affect patient care.

Keywords: ICMJE; authorship; bioethics; equal credit; ghost; honorary.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Authorship*
  • Biomedical Research / ethics*
  • Humans
  • Periodicals as Topic / ethics*