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The ICMJE has developed a set of guidelines to help determine who authors should be. They say

The following recommendations are intended to ensure that contributors who have made substantive intellectual contributions to a paper are given credit as authors

The requirements to be an author are:

The ICMJE recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

I think that it is reasonable that authors should meet all 4 of the criteria. What seems surprising to me is that someone could use the guidelines to justify not including someone as an author that did the work, drafted the manuscript, and agreed to be accountable, by simply not allowing them the chance to provide final approval of the version to be published.

Shouldn't the guidelines include a condition that if you meet the first criteria, that you then be given the option to meet the other criteria?

Am I missing something?

Has this apparent shortcoming been addressed anywhere?

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Further down the ICMJE remarks:

The criteria are not intended for use as a means to disqualify colleagues from authorship who otherwise meet authorship criteria by denying them the opportunity to meet criterion #s 2 or 3. Therefore, all individuals who meet the first criterion should have the opportunity to participate in the review, drafting, and final approval of the manuscript.

The guidelines do include such a criterion.

  • 3
    Well I missed that rather obvious statement. – StrongBad Mar 23 '15 at 10:25
  • 4
    I guessed so. :) It is remarkable that the statement answers your question that precisely, by the way... You had the "shortcoming" cornered pretty well! – T. Verron Mar 23 '15 at 10:28
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Shouldn't the guidelines include a condition that if you meet the first criteria, that you then be given the option to meet the other criteria?

This does indeed sound like a no-brainer.

However, it is really a question of etiquette within a collaboration. A journal can't really enforce this, can it? Would a tick box in the online submission system really be useful?

By ticking this box, I declare that everyone who has done work AND revised the manuscript AND agreed to be accountable has also had a chance to provide final approval of the submitted version.

I'd find seeing something like this... strange. What should a journal then do in the case that someone did get the chance to provide approval, but didn't answer within a reasonable time frame?

Bottom line: I'd say this is a borderline case. Journals can't possibly control every single aspect of authorship, and they need to draw the line somewhere. This seems like a good point where we don't need yet another tick box.


Finally, it seems like problems like these may be self-correcting. Once word gets around that someone treats their collaborators like this, they likely will see their possibilities for collaboration disappear.

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