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PLOS BLOGS Speaking of Medicine and Health

Ghostwriting and its wider ramifications

With a different hat on I write and tweet on the Publication Ethics blog of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). I recently posted a blog on various aspects of ghost writing, to highlight three articles in Bioethics. The articles cover whether ghostwriting is also plagiarism, the wider ghost management of the literature (a topic that came out clearly in the documents released in the Prempro case) and the even larger issue of the use of the medical literature for marketing purposes more generally.

I’d like to throw one more idea into the mix. Authorship has become such a prized commodity, being as it were the currency of scientific and medical worth, that the flip side of ghost authorship – guest authorship – has become something that some academics gladly consider. “Guest” authors may be added to a manuscript to. for instance, thank them for helping to obtain funding. “Ghost” authors on the other hand are not named but may have in fact written the whole article.

Until the publish or perish culture is seriously addressed by academic institutions, some academics will continue to feel pressured to get just one more publication. We need to find new ways to enable academics to be credited for all their contributions rather than an undue weight being placed on publication and “authorship”.

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