James is a senior researcher at a private institution. One day he was taken by surprise to see his name as a co-author on a published article that he had not participated in. The article had three other co-authors. In response to this, James contacted each of the co-authors, seeking for an explanation regarding the case. However, he did not receive feedback from the corresponding author, but instead, the second and third authors responded, saying that their name had also been included without their knowledge and that they have not participated in the writing the article in any way. The three researchers then contacted the journal editor and asked him to pull out their names from the article. After a few months, the editor reported that he had tried to contact the corresponding author through the email, but it was in vain. In addition, the auditor reported that he would require a signed agreement from all the authors to be able to pull out the names of the co-authors. The three researchers were confused and sought further advice regarding the issue.
Analysis of the case study
The increase in the number of authors on articles has contributed to the issues around authorship. In this case, the main problem is including the name of individuals as co-authors, and yet they did not contribute any information on the article. For instance, James and the other two researchers were included as co-authors in an article they did not take part in. The corresponding author failed to consult the three researchers to ask for permission to include them as co-authors in an article he wanted to publish. Another problem in the case is communication. The three authors need to pull out their names from the paper, but they are unable to reach the corresponding author to obtain a signed agreement.
Gather relevant information
In this case, it is important to collect relevant information. First, it is important to understand why the corresponding author used the name of the researchers without consulting them. Since the ultimate goal of publishing a paper is to be accepted, the corresponding author might have decided to use the names of the researchers to increase the chances of a positive public reception (Dhammi & Haq, 2017). No author who would want his or her paper fails because of low reception. In regards to this, the corresponding author could have felt the drive to include renowned researchers as co-authors to increase the taste of his paper.
Explore viable options
The provided ICMJE authorship guideline states that any addition and removal of authors after a manuscript publication needs an explanation as well as a statement of signed agreement from all the parties listed (Shamoo & Resnik, 2009). In regards to this, in case one author does not respond, the editor will not be able to pull out the names of the co-authors even when they are convinced that it is an issue of misconduct. Thus, since communication with the corresponding author through the email is in vain, the researchers should try other communication channels such as calls and social media. There is a possibility that the corresponding author’s email address might not be functional.
If the move fails, then the researchers should seek more help from the head of an institution affiliated to the corresponding author. The researchers should inform the journal editor on the developments and present information on the failed attempts to reach out to the corresponding author. The information on the failed attempts to reach out to the corresponding author could strengthen the case, and the editor could consider their request of pulling out their names from the journal. In addition, relevant authorities should be involved in handling the case.
Ethical principles, policies, or other rules
The ethical principles, in this case, are fairness and honesty. Fairness is an important concern because credit should be given when and where it is due. In addition, honesty involves being open and transparent (Müller & Soares, 2017). Naming someone else as an author in a paper he or she did not participate in is dishonesty. In terms of policies, a clear description of every author’s contribution to the article is required to solve issues like the one in the case. It is required that the journal editor should contact all the listed authors in a paper prior to publication.
Resolving conflicts among principles and policies and take action
Conflicts among the principles and policies might affect the overall management of the issue (Nagy, 2011). In the case study, the corresponding author acted unethically by listing the researchers on his paper as co-authors without their consent. Thus, information about the corresponding author’s profile shows that he is new to the issues of authorship. There is a high possibility that the corresponding author could have used the names of the researchers as co-authors to increase the chances of acceptance of the article. In regard to this, the editor should pull out the names of the researchers from the paper. The corresponding author should be suspended from publishing any paper until the set date.
Dhammi, I. K., & Haq, R. U. (2017). Ethics of medical research and publication. Indian journal of orthopaedics, 51(1), 1.
Müller, M. J., & Soares, M. (2017). The ethics of research publication.
Nagy, T. F. (2011). Ethics in research and publication.
Shamoo, A. E., & Resnik, D. B. (2009). Responsible conduct of research. Oxford University Press.