Objectives Concerns about implicit bias and the associated risks of unethical or abusive authorship practices have been raised across academic disciplines. Due to these concerns, we examined the associations between sociodemographic characteristics and dimensions of reported difficulty receiving accurate author attribution among academic researchers. Investigating author experiences may facilitate the identification of factors that drive author inequality and/or unethical or abusive practices, which could disadvantage historically underrepresented groups in terms of career advancement, recognition, and academic opportunities.
Participants The target population for the study included all US-affiliated academic authors of sponsored original research published in one of 12 target journals that cover outcomes research, pharmacoepidemiology, and pharmacoeconomic disciplines from October 2018 through September 2019.
Methods We identified eligible authors and acknowledged individuals by hand-searching 12 months of issues for the 12 target journals. We developed an online survey to collect data on subjects’ authorship experiences in the context of their entire academic careers. We asked about demographic and career characteristics as well as 6 dimensions of authorship conflict including (a) authorship exclusion, (b) first-author demotion, (c) last-author demotion, (d) middle-author demotion, (e) cancelled (or non-definitively postponed) publication, or (f) other conflicts. Respondents were asked to report the likelihood that they had experienced these dimensions of conflict on a 5-point Likert scale.
Results We identified 12,560 individuals listed as authors or acknowledged on 1,623 original research papers published from September 2018 through October 2019 in the selected journals. Of that, the survey was sent by email to 988 eligible authors, representing 10% of identified authors, and 5 acknowledged individuals. A total of 267 persons responded and completed the survey, including 144 males and 123 females. Males reported an average of 24.7 more publications than females (95% confidence interval [CI] 16.1, 33.2), a difference that was reduced to only 7.1 (95% CI 0.9, 13.2) when controlling for demographic and career characteristics. Across all six dimensions of authorship conflict, except dimension 4 regarding whether or not the respondent was placed later in a list of authors than was warranted, males were more likely to report a conflict. Only dimension 5, whether or not a paper’s publication was cancelled or delayed indefinitely because of a disagreement about authorship was statistically significant for gender in the univariable analysis, and males were 3 times as likely to report the conflict compared to females (odds ratio=3.2; 95% CI=1.03-10; p=0.045). However, when we adjusted for number of publications and/or years of experience, the magnitude of the difference was attenuated, and the model was no longer significant.
Conclusions Despite the establishment of ICMJE authorship criteria, disputes over authorship are reported by both genders. Additionally, the disparity in number of publications by gender, despite years’ of experience, is suggestive of gender-inequity in the academic publishing environment. This highlights the need for an enhanced role in educating investigators about ethical authorship, and for determining author responsibilities and hierarchy in advance to minimize the risk of disputes.Recommend0 recommendationsPublished in