ceive much of the credit for the project even if the second researcher makes major contributions. Similarly, when an established researcher initiates a project, that individual may receive more credit than a beginning researcher who spends much of his or her time working on the project. When a beginning researcher makes an intellectual contribution to a project, that contribution deserves to be recognized, including when the work is undertaken independently of the laboratory’s principal investigator. Established researchers are well aware of the importance of credit in science where traditions expect them to be generous in their allocation of credit to beginning researchers.

Sometimes a name is included in a list of authors even though that person had little or nothing to do with the content of a paper. Including “honorary,” “guest,” or “gift” authors dilutes the credit due the people who actually did the work, inflates the credentials of the added authors, and makes the proper attribution of credit more difficult. Journals, the administrators of research institutions, and researchers should all work to avoid this practice. Similarly, ghost authorship,

Who Gets Credit?

Robert has been working in a large engineering company for three years following his postdoctoral fellowship. Using computer simulations, he has developed a method to constrain the turbulent mixing that occurs near the walls of a tokomak fusion reactor. He has written a paper for Physical Review and has submitted it to the head of his research group for review. The head of the group says that the paper is fine but that, as the supervisor of the research, he needs to be included as an author of the paper. Yet Robert knows that his supervisor did not make any direct intellectual contribution to the paper.

  1. How should Robert respond to his supervisor’s demand to be an honorary author?

  2. What ways might be possible to appeal the decision within the company?

  3. What other resources exist that Robert can use in dealing with this issue?



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement