Ghost Research Essays

Walsh said that when the work is submitted for publication, the grad students will be identified, so they will not be ghosts.In this article, we extend our previous discussion of the ethics of manuscript authorship to an issue that haunts both academia and industry: ghost authorship.

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Ghost authorship is essentially the opposite of honorary authorship, entailing a significant contribution to a manuscript without acknowledgment of that contribution.

The most well-known scenario involves a professional medical writer or an industry researcher who drafts an article on behalf of a pharmaceutical company but is not credited for this work.

Walsh, who presented the results here, said the findings are important not only for one reading a paper and wanting to place the authors.

"We are in an era of high-stakes evaluation," he said, in which professors are evaluated all the time on number of papers written, citations of those papers and so forth. " One of the key issues is that disciplines have varying standards.

Walsh said the current system of widespread ghost authors makes it more difficult to know if anyone in a study might have a conflict of interest.

He said he believes that the primary reason for ghost authors is that primary authors don't believe in sharing credit with, among others, grad students and postdocs.

However, it has been argued that writing a manuscript is in fact a significant contribution, particularly because communicating complex scientific findings frequently requires understanding and interpreting the data.

Based on this argument, the ICMJE definition of what merits authorship attribution would have to be revised or even replaced with a list of diverse contributions.

Some professors, he said, continue to have an attitude about their graduate students' work that "what's yours is mine and what's mine is mine." As a result, any comparison of departments may understate some departments' use of graduate students in publications, he said.

As for his paper, Walsh said it had no guests, but some ghosts -- graduate students who helped with data collection.


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