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Honorary authorship in postgraduate medical training
  1. Sathish Rajasekaran1,2,
  2. Alto Lo2,
  3. Abdel-Rahman Aly2,
  4. Nigel Ashworth2
  1. 1Department of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, University of Iowa Sports Medicine, Iowa City, Iowa, USA
  2. 2Division Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sathish Rajasekaran, UI Sports Medicine, 2701 Prairie Meadow Drive, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA; sathish.k.rajasekaran{at}


Objectives To determine whether postgraduate medical trainees are exposed to honorary authorship, whether they are aware of the topic and if they believe that further support and education concerning this issue is needed.

Methods Postgraduate medical trainees were contacted by email with a link to our questionnaire on two occasions (2 and 26 February 2014) and then contacted in person (June–November 2014). The questionnaire topics included demographics, authorship practice beliefs and experience, and authorship policy-related questions. We also determined the proportion of perceived, International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)-defined and unperceived honorary authorship in the respondent group.

Results The response rate was 27.7%. The prevalence of perceived, ICMJE-defined and unperceived honorary authorship was 38.1%, 57.3% and 24.2%, respectively; 90.1% were unaware of the ICMJE authorship criteria, 92.6% were unaware of a support system for authorship disputes, but 91.8% believed such a system should be implemented and 93.3% believed medical trainees and faculty should be instructed on authorship guidelines.

Conclusions A paradigm shift from the current system is needed, where enforcement of ethical authorship practices is shifted away from journal editors. Instruction on the topic should be provided to medical trainees throughout medical school and continued during further training. A process should also be outlined to resolve authorship disputes. These measures may encourage researchers to have an open discussion on the topic prior to the commencement of a research project, and to resolve authorship conflicts in a constructive manner. We also hope this paper encourages further work on the topic.

  • ETHICS (see Medical Ethics)
  • EDUCATION & TRAINING (see Medical Education & Training)

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