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Clarifying science “authorship”

Imagine that one of your colleagues or friends publishes a new book and mentions you on the cover as the co-author. Without letting you know. You walk into a bookstore and see “your” book. Would you feel honored or embarrassed? Would you consider it your book? Would you take the credit if people complimented you? Would you take the criticism if people said it was mediocre?

This summer I discovered my third publication that I did not write. I am a scientist, and I was updating my curriculum vitae for a grant application when I checked the publication database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine for the correct page numbers of one of my publications. The search on my name retrieved an article that I had never seen before, on a topic that is not in my area of expertise.

I contacted the lead author and learned that I had been acknowledged because the study was based on data collected by a consortium of which I was once a member. I was reassured that I am not responsible for the contents of the paper because I am credited as a collaborator, not as an author.

Click here to read more from this article by Cecile Janssens in the August 11, 2014 Chronicle of Higher Education.

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