Surprise Authorship

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Science  28 Mar 1997:
Vol. 275, Issue 5308, pp. 1861-1865
DOI: 10.1126/science.275.5308.1861d


Recent letters (6 Dec., p. 1593; 24 Jan., p. 461) have proposed strict rules for co-authorship of scientific publications. I wholeheartedly agree that to put one's name on a paper is an assurance to the scientific community that one has contributed to the work and that one stands behind the work reported. However, one aspect of the co-authorship problem that I have not seen discussed in this forum is that of finding one's name as a co-author on a publication of which one has no knowledge. This recently happened to a colleague and me when we found a paper in a journal listing our names as co-authors, although neither of us had ever contributed to the work, seen the manuscript, or been notified of its submission or publication.

I felt victimized by this event and by the use of my name in an inappropriate manner. Integrity and reputation are among our major assets as scientists. I agree with previous letter writers that every reputable journal should secure a written statement from each author listed on a manuscript assuring that a contribution to the work was made and accepting responsibility for the work. Such a requirement will protect both the integrity of the literature from bogus authorship and the integrity of researchers whose names may be usurped.

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