The practice of "ghostwriting" can range from unacknowledged editorial assistance to getting someone else to sign on as author of a paper that you wrote.
Reports from the Sixth International Congress of Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, this week in Vancouver, confirm that the practice is widespread, but don't clarify where it mostly falls on this spectrum:
- In a survey, 7.8% of respondents admit that, on their articles in major medical journals, people who could have been listed as co-authors were not.
- Looking at the metadata in Word files reveals hidden contributors in many manuscripts.
I hope that the journals, and the academic community, can figure out how to clamp down on this practice.
At the Knight Tracker, Paul Raeburn commented on the coverage of this conference. In particular, he notes that several stories touted the dangers of pharma ghostwriting stories, when the survey mentioned above does not actually reveal the nature of the unattributed authors.