Last week I briefly introduced the concept of professional medical writers. These individuals are hired to write or create medical publications (such as abstracts, journal articles, and conference posters or presentations) on behalf of, or in collaboration with the actual researchers. Medical writers are often used because researchers do not have the time, interest, or the writing expertise to create high quality, publishable work in a timely manner. However, the listed authors still need to be involved in the writing process, and have specific obligations to fulfil in order to qualify as an author.
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends that authorship be based on the following 4 criteria: http://www.icmje.org/icmje-recommendations.pdf
- Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
- Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
- Final approval of the version to be published; AND
- Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
Authorship is one of the major ways in which researchers get credit for the work that they do, which in turn often leads to professional and financial benefits. However, being designated as an author also carries a level of responsibility, as it serves as a public acknowledgement that an individual is willing and able to vouch for a publication and field any questions or critiques that may arise after publication of the work. Therefore, it is important that ethical authorship practices continue to be upheld, and that medical writers are used appropriately.