Background: Publication is the primary means of contributing to and establishing credibility within the scientific community. Some researchers have reported an increase in the average number of authors per manuscript for some scholarly journals in the past two decades. Whereas author proliferation may be warranted in some cases, other reasons for increasing the overall number of authors per manuscript may have more dubious motives, including gratuitous authorship for embellishing curriculum vitae. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine whether there was evidence of authorship proliferation in the American Journal of Health Education during 1996-2006. In addition, other selected authorship information was identified. Methods: A content analysis of original articles published from January 1996 through December 2006 (N=755) was performed. Results: There has not been a statistically significant change in the number of authors per manuscript for the time period studied. Discussion: Although no significant change in number of authors was found, other investigative methods may be necessary to estimate the practice of gratuitous authorship. Translation to Health Education Practice: Health educators should be cognizant of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) criteria for authorship and endeavor to ensure that all authors meet these criteria.
Publication is the primary means of contributing to, and establishing credibility within, the scientific community. Some researchers conclude that there has been an increase over the past two decades in the average number of authors per manuscript. (1-3) Plausible explanations for this apparent trend toward more multiple-authored papers is the increasing complexity of some of the research and the popularization of multicenter collaborations. (1,4) Whereas authorship proliferation based on these factors may be warranted, other types of author augmentation practices may have more dubious motives, including gratuitous authorship for the purpose of embellishing curriculum vitae.
Khan et al. (5) studied one journal's authorship trends over two decades and found that the increase in authorship over time could not be exclusively attributed to increased collaboration. Drenth (6) explored authorship increase, specifically examining the contribution of senior authors. Findings suggested that the increase in multiple-author papers in one particular journal was associated with an escalation in authorship among professors and department chairpersons.
Concerns regarding gratuitous authorship have prompted some journals to develop specific criteria that must be met to confer authorship. (7) Moreover, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) (8) developed the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals to outline explicit authorship criteria: (1) substantial contribution to the study's conception and design, (2) drafting the article or revising it critically, and (3) final approval of the manuscript prior to publication. All three criteria must be met for one to be considered an author. Some journals, including the Journal of the American Medical Association, require that an authorship form outlining each author's contributions accompany submitted manuscripts. (9)
Despite these guidelines, some editors and other authorities believe that gratuitous authorship continues to be an issue. Instances of authorship conferred without meeting ICMJE criteria usually fall into one of four categories: "honorary" "gift" "ghost" or "guest" authorship. Honorary authorship refers to authorship awarded without the attainment of ICMJE criteria. (10,11) Sometimes honorary authors have authorship conferred in return for a favor (e.g., a department chairperson who provided release time for the writer; a fellow scientist who received funding to carry out the study but had no direct involvement in either the study or the preparation of the paper). …