A Survey of Awareness of Authorship Criteria by Clinical Investigators and Medical Writers in China

Jing-ling Bao,1 Xiu-yuan Hao,1 Wei-zhu Liu,1 Pei-fang Wei,1 Yang Pan,1 Jun-min Wei,1 Young-mao Jiang1

Objective To estimate the awareness of Chinese clinical investigators and medical writers about the authorship criteria defined by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) and the association between this awareness and the number of articles that are published.

Design A total of 935 clinical investigators and medical writers in China were surveyed online using a questionnaire with 4 questions. The first question addressed understanding of ICMJE authorship criteria in a multiple-choice format with 5 options: the first 4 options were the 4 specific authorship criteria defined by ICMJE, and the fifth option was that all those designated as authors should meet all 4 criteria for authorship. The second question asked about who should make the final decision regarding authorship and had 3 answer options: first author, corresponding author, and all authors. The third question asked whether the respondent had included someone who did not contribute to the work in an article. The fourth question asked about the number of papers submitted and published in Chinese and English-language journals. A χ2 test was performed to analyze whether there was an association between the number of articles published and the awareness of authorship criteria.

Results Among the 935 clinical investigators and medical writers from throughout mainland China invited to particiapate, 737 (78.8%) responded to the questionnaire. Of these, 726 (98.5%) provided usable responses. Regarding the first question on authorship criteria, 213 respondents (29.3%) gave the correct answer (the fifth option) and an additional 174 respondents (24.0%) indicated all first 4 options. Combined, 387 (53.3%) provided correct answers confirming an understanding of ICMJE criteria for authorship. Of the 339 respondents (46.7%) who did not select answers that demonstrated an understanding of the complete authorship criteria, 322 (95.0%), 254 (75.0%), 5 (1.5%), and 219 (64.6%) respondents chose the first to fourth options, respectively. There were no significant differences between the numbers of authors who published 0 to 2 articles and 3 or more articles in Chinese vs English-language journals. Only 100 respondents (13.8%) chose the option that all the authors should decide the order of authors, and there was no difference between the 2 groups. A total of 370 respondents (51%) indicated that they included someone who did not contribute to their work as an author (honorary author); this was reported more frequently by authors who published 3 or more articles vs 0 to 2 articles in Chinese journals (54.2% vs 42.1%, P = 0.004) (Table).

Conclusions Many Chinese clinical investigators and medical writers are unaware of the ICMJE authorship criteria, and this unawareness has no association with the number of articles that are published. The existence of honorary authors is common. Editors should take responsibility for disseminating information regarding authorship criteria to authors.

1Editorial Office, Chronic Diseases and Translational Medicine, Chinese Medical Association, 42 Dongsi Xidajie, Beijing, baojingling@cma.org.cn

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Funding/Support: None reported.

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