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Honorary and Ghost Authorship in Nursing Publications

Authors

  • Maureen Shawn Kennedy MA, RN,

    Corresponding author
    1. Upsilon, Editor in Chief, American Journal of Nursing, Wolters Kluwer Health, New York, NY, USA
    • Correspondence Maureen Shawn Kennedy, Editor in Chief, American Journal of Nursing, Wolters Kluwer Health, 333 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10001. E-mail: shawn.kennedy@wolterskluwer.com

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  • Jane Barnsteiner PhD, RN, FAAN,

    1. Xi, Professor Emerita, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Editor, Translational Research & Quality Improvement, American Journal of Nursing, Minneapolis, MN, USA
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  • John Daly PhD, RN, FACN, FAAN

    1. Xi Omicron, Dean, Faculty of Health, Head, WHO Collaborating Centre for Nursing, Midwifery & Health Development, Editor-In-Chief, Collegian, The Australian Journal of Nursing Practice, Scholarship and Research , University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, Australia
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Abstract

Purpose

The purposes of this study were to (a) assess the prevalence of articles with honorary authors and ghost authors in 10 leading peer-reviewed nursing journals between 2010 to 2012; (b) compare the results to prevalence reported by authors of articles published in high-impact medical journals; and (c) assess the experiences of editors in the International Academy of Nursing Editors with honorary and guest authorship.

Methods

Corresponding authors of articles published in 10 nursing journals between 2010 and 2012 were invited to complete an online survey about the contributions of coauthors to see if the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (1985) criteria for authorship were met. Additionally, members of the International Academy of Nursing Editors were invited to complete an online survey about their experiences in identifying honorary or ghost authors in articles submitted for publication.

Findings

The prevalence of articles published in 10 nursing journals with honorary authors was 42%, and the prevalence of ghost authorship was 27.6%. This is a greater prevalence than what has been reported among medical journals. Qualitative data yielded five themes: lack of awareness around the rules for authorship; acknowledged need for debate, discussion, and promotion of ethical practice; knowingly tolerating, and sometimes deliberately promoting, transgressions in practice; power relations and expectations; and avoiding scrutiny. Among the 60 respondents to the editor survey, 22 (36.7%) reported identifying honorary authors and 13 (21.7%) reported ghost authors among papers submitted to their publications.

Conclusions

Inappropriate authorship is a significant problem among scholarly nursing publications.

Relevance

If nursing scholarship is to maintain integrity and be considered trustworthy, and if publications are to be a factor in professional advancement, editors, nursing leaders, and faculty need to disseminate and adhere to ethical authorship practices.

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