Is it ethically OK to accept that your name be included as an author of a paper you have done almost nothing about when all the parties agree on the matter and there is mutual consent?

  • What do you mean by "almost nothing"? It can be the case that a contribution with small effort (as giving a significant idea), dramatically improves the paper and authorship is due. In that case, you should start getting involved in the paper in writing and proofreading.
    – Shake Baby
    Jul 14, 2017 at 20:06

1 Answer 1



This is called "gift authorship" and is generally regarded as unethical.

The widely accepted Vancouver Protocol gives the following conditions for authorship:

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.

If you have not done those four things, then it is not ethical to be listed as an author.

  • 9
    Isn't that a rather big claim that regardless of field or the journal policies, it is unethical if you don't follow the guidelines laid out by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Even putting aside the obvious counterexamples of particle physics collaborations there are a whole number of subjects where authors routinely do not make significant contributions to drafting the paper (although they should be given the option to review and contribute), are they all behaving unethically?
    – Bobgom
    Jul 15, 2017 at 6:00
  • The Association for Computing Machinery--the primary computer science professional organization (at least in the US)--has a similar authorship policy.
    – JeffE
    Jul 15, 2017 at 9:21
  • I would say there are already some differences, for example if someone made a significant contribution but only gave a cursory review of the manuscript and suggested cosmetic changes, then they may not meet the criteria of the ICMJE but seemingly could meet those of the Association for Computing Machinery. As another example, I can't see anything from the American Physical Society saying that authors must contribute to writing or reviewing the manuscript, merely that they should have the opportunity to do so: aps.org/policy/statements/02_2.cfm
    – Bobgom
    Jul 15, 2017 at 10:58

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