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February 4, 1998

Authors vs Contributors: Accuracy, Accountability, and Responsibility

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;279(5):356-357. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-279-5-jbk0204

To the Editor.— Dr Rennie and colleagues1 present an interesting discussion of the concept of authorship along with their proposals for overhauling what, to them, must seem like an outdated system. However, in reading the authors' use of the new "contributor" concept, one can only wonder exactly what they hope to accomplish. For example, we are told that Dr Emanuel "wrote the first draft," Rennie "wrote numerous drafts," and Ms Yank "produced the final draft." It is difficult to imagine any reader who could possibly be interested in this information or in any of the various other details that are presented. The attribution footnote further informs us that all the authors "codeveloped and corefined the intellectual content" of the article, a statement that is as vague as none at all and that could be said about virtually anyone associated with the project. In addition, Rennie et al1 state, "All 3 contributors are guarantors for the integrity of the article as a whole," which is something readers could expect from all authors even under the current system. Spelling out the roles of the various authors is not relevant to the reader and, in the event of alleged scientific misconduct, would provide little information that would not be gleaned from even a cursory investigation.

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