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October 20, 2004

Author! Author!

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Robert M. Golub, MD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(15):1815-1816. doi:10.1001/jama.292.15.1815-a

To the Editor: The study by Dr Bates and colleagues1 shows that the disclosure of authors’ contributions has improved but not solved the problem of honorary authorship. The practice of including undeserved authors is not easy to eradicate because it provides some benefits and, remarkably, does so without detrimental consequences to the real authors. Bibliometric analysis may transfer the impact factor of a journal to its articles, and ultimately to the articles’ authors. This seems reasonable for single-author articles, but is difficult to justify for multiauthored articles. An article published in a journal with an impact factor of 15 could provide 15 points for its authorship if there is a sole author, but 150 points if there are 10 authors. This unfair system encourages authorship inflation and, at the same time, may put honest authors at a disadvantage in academic competition.

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