Gift authorship: A provocative issue

Assigning authorship for the real contributors can be a tricky business for the scientific or the academic writers.

What is gift authorship? In simple terms, it is defined as the co-authorship, conferred to those having a little or no intellectual contribution in the study. Gift authorship provides just an authority stamp for the non-contributors.

Authorship criteria: The person affiliated under this type of authorship, do not meet the authorship criteria defined by various international bodies. According to one of the giant international body, known as International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), authorship criteria are stated as follows:

(i) Substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition or collection, analysis and interpretation of data;

(ii) Drafting or revising the article, critically for important intellectual content; and

(iii) Giving the final approval of the edited version of the article, to be published.

Ethical viewpoint of gift authorship: Gift authorship is regarded as highly unethical and irrelevant, as the author honored with the title of authorship holds no contributing hands, neither in the designing nor in data analysis; he/she do not meet the authorship criteria. He/she may not have expertise in the field to which the study is related, which may bring dismay to the institute or the publishing journal. This kind of authorship has cropped up in an intense way in the medical writing field, demanding an immediate action to be taken against this illegal authorship, as this dilutes the credentials of the authors who have done the real work, related to the study protocol.

Reasons for researchers opting for gift authorship: There are many identified reasons that put the precocious researchers to opt for the option of gift authorship.  Some of the most cited reasons are:

(i) Superiority complex of the guide or the lead supervisor. They do not allow any research article publication by their junior counterparts; and

(ii) Certain researchers believe that assigning the names of their head supervisor or institutional head can lead to increased readability and help in publication of their articles.

The researchers should think of undermining such authorship that leads to the loss in the credibility of the real contributing authors and diluting their work profile.