Wednesday 21 December 2011


I was browsing through a recent issue of the Times Higher Education today and I stumbled across a very fascinating article. It is entitled "Research Intelligence - Phantom and parasitical menaces" and is dated November the 10th 2011.

The article is a report on a survey published by the British Medical Journal, on the phenomena of guest and ghost authors on academic publications. The survey's title is "Honorary and ghost authorship in high impact biomedical journals: a cross sectional survey". The original survey (BMJ 2011;343:d6128) was aired in October 2011, with a subsequent correction (BMJ 2011;343:d7677) published in November 2011.

This is a link to the publication:
The correction can be found here:

In my humble opinion, the interesting part is not the discussion on the phenomena themselves. Rather, it is the discussion on methods to decrease their occurrence. THE's article lists various recommendations, from various sources. Among them are ghost/guest explicit prohibition; signed contribution statements from authors; publications bans; more rigid institutional monitoring; legal action. Some may seem a tad bureaucratic or unrealistic but, to me, this is an indication that the community acknowledges the situation as a problem that needs solved.

Being outside the biomedical field myself, I will refrain from commenting on the ghost part. When it comes to guests though, I shall point you to the first reader comment (the one on November the 10th) below THE's article. Read the third paragraph, the one starting with "On reason for this...".

Having read this comment, I have nothing further to say...