Unethical authorship practices have become increasingly common in academia in recent years. Inappropriate listing of someone as a co-author may be innocent. It could be due to a misunderstanding over what counts as a contribution worthy of authorship credit as opposed to an acknowledgment. However, unethical practices such as “gift authorship” raise serious concerns for journal editors.
The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) defines gift authorship as “when somebody who has made little or no contribution to a research project or publication is included as an author”. This practice is often a benign mistake. For example, an inexperienced author may believe a co-author credit is necessary if their work builds on a more senior figure’s research.
Less innocently, researchers may add academic heavyweight co-authors to their paper in the belief that reviewers will judge it more favorably. Both practices are inappropriate. Careful checking of co-author details is the first step toward educating inexperienced academics on correct practices.
To prevent delays, double-check the validity of all co-authors’ contact details at the submission stage. If you spot any disputes or inconsistencies, you can refer back to the authors for resolution before investing editor time. After all, it is the Corresponding Author’s responsibility to ensure that all co-authors consent to being named as such before submission for peer review.
The ScholarOne submission system can send an email alert to each listed co-author when a new manuscript is submitted. This email notifies them that a paper has been submitted in their name. This presents a valuable opportunity for authors to respond if they have been named on a paper without their approval. As such, we encourage editors to enable this feature if it isn’t already in place.
If the co-author email address is incorrect, or “dead”, the alert will not send. In such cases, a delivery failure notification or “email bounce-back” will be generated. If you receive one of these “bounce-back” emails, ask the submitting author for a current, valid email address for the co-author. Preferably, they should supply contact details for the co-author’s institutional address.
What if a paper has only the submitting author named in the Co-Author List but additional names in the manuscript itself? In this case, unsubmit the paper and return it to the corresponding author, asking them for full contact details for each co-author.
Unsubmitting a paper is not the same as rejecting it. The submission form and manuscript documents will all be saved in their Author Centre under “Unsubmitted Manuscripts”. This allows the author to add any missing details before resubmitting the paper.
How do you double-check co-author details in ScholarOne? What action should you take if the information given by the Corresponding Author is wrong? Here is the step-by-step guide.
If the co-authors are missing from the manuscript details in ScholarOne:
If the co-authors’ contact details are incorrect, there are author email delivery failures in the journal inbox, or the co-authors’ email addresses appear to belong to the corresponding author (e.g., the corresponding author is called Jim Jones and co-author Joe Bloggs has an email address email@example.com):
If the co-authors have been added, removed, or rearranged from the authors’ list of a revised or accepted manuscript:
All correspondence should be recorded in the Audit Trail in ScholarOne.