“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!” John Proctor said that in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible. He promptly refuses to sign his name to his false confession of witchcraft, thus assuring his death.
A bit dramatic, but can fraudulently signing your name to a research paper you didn’t write be the death of your academic career? Your respectability in the field can definitely take a hit if you don’t understand the difference between a gift and guest authorship.
To confuse matters, scientific journals often have conflicting guidelines regarding the authorship of research papers. What’s the best way to avoid when having research papers you may not be directly involved in writing attributed to your name?
Why the Placement of Your Name on a Research Paper Matters
Research papers can have solo authorships or multiple names involved. Such a co-authorship sometimes includes department supervisors who didn’t have a hand in accumulating the research or writing the findings.
Some scholars and researchers may feel pressured by the ‘publish or perish’ stigma that permeates academics. The pressure to regularly publish research articles to drum up funding can result in agreeing to have your name added to a paper without proper contribution.
However, those in academia should think long and hard before accepting the frowned-upon honorary authorships. As John Proctor knew, his name held weight in his small community. We’re not suggesting researchers choose death over besmirching their good name. But do consider your reputation when signing your name to research papers.
Did the Author Really Write That Content?
Ghostwriting is quite common in the fiction and autobiography genres. Think your favorite celebrity really wrote that book about their life story? Think again.
Some of the most popular fiction books were written by someone other than the author’s name slapped on the cover. The most well-known example is V.C. Andrews, famous for gothic horror sagas. Flowers In The Attic is arguably the most recognizable V.C. Andrews series.
V.C. Andrews died in 1986, yet books with her name were published as recently as 2020 and 2022. Who is writing these books? Ghostwriter Andrew Neiderman completed three books V.C. Andrews was working on at the time of her death. Other authors have continued to write under the author’s name.
Fiction fans may be surprised to know that constant best-selling author James Patterson doesn’t write all of his books. It’s a well-known secret that he hires ghostwriters to help churn out several books yearly. Patterson may be a bestselling author, but his reputation among peers and critics is less than stellar.
Ghostwriting is common in medical research, as well. While the authors named likely did the research, many medical agencies outsource the actual writing of the article. For academic research, outsourcing is particularly dangerous. The reader assumes the research was written by an expert in the field, but it could have been an assistant, a peer, or a freelancer.
Many journals consider the practice unethical and have strict guidelines to prevent it. The authors of a research paper should be directly involved in the research process. Otherwise, the findings will be invalid and possibly incorrect.
The authorship guidelines ensure that only those with meaningful contributions to the research get author or co-author credit. One way to do this is to catalog each author’s individual contribution.
Gift Versus Guest Authorship: Pros and Cons
Are there any positive reasons to allow your name to be put on a research paper with little to no meaningful contribution?
Gift authorship is often offered to junior, or even senior, colleagues as a potential future quid pro quo. Similarly, guest authorship is awarded to those with respect and influence in the field, increasing the possibility of publication. One ‘pro’ of such authorships is guaranteed publication, but at what cost?
Despite the controversy, guest and gift authorships are par for the course in academic writing.
Is Your Name Attached to a Published Work? Check the Stats on Impactio
If you are an author or co-author of a published research paper, how do you measure the impact of your work? If you’re like thousands of other scientists, you head to Impactio, America’s premier platform for researchers and scholars, to do this. In addition to networking, the platform allows users to follow the research impact analytics of their work. Create your profile on Impactio today to start tracking the influence of your authorship.