The Importance of Interpersonal Relationship Factors in Decisions Regarding Authorship

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Authorship on scientific articles is an important form of academic productivity. We examined the influence of personal and professional relationships on authorship decisions, particularly as they may conflict with stated criteria of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE).

METHODS: We conducted an anonymous e-mail survey of corresponding authors of original research articles in the Archives of Family Medicine, British Medical Journal, New England Journal of Medicine, and the American Journal of Psychiatry in 1999. Assessments were made of how often concerns about personal and professional relationships enter authorship decisions as well as factors affecting authorship if that person does not meet ICMJE criteria.

RESULTS: Of 578 eligible individuals, 292 participated, for a response rate of 50.5%. Personal and professional relationship concerns enter into decisions about who should be named as an author. Junior faculty and individuals whose job is dependent on publications were significantly more likely to feel obligated to consider adding an author who doesn't meet ICMJE criteria when that person has administrative power over them. Current strategies to improve the veracity of authorship were endorsed as moderately effective.

CONCLUSIONS: Authors are faced with the difficult task of negotiating interpersonal relationships while allocating authorship according to ICMJE criteria. Mechanisms should be explored to provide greater protection of junior faculty from pressure by senior faculty.

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