Unethical Author Attribution
Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics
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I am an M.D/Ph.D. student and work as a research assistant for the director of a division of the school of medicine who is an M.D. He assigned me to research a certain topic and gave me no guidelines or guidance as to how to do it. Nevertheless, I did the research and wrote it up. My supervisor liked the report and said that he thought it was so good that “I would like to offer you the opportunity to publish it and list you as the primary author.” Some bells went off when he so grandly offered to let me author the report for which I had done 100% of research and writing. I consulted some other people in the field and they said that, as long as I was the primary author, it was legitimate for him to list himself as secondary author if he did some editing later. After editing the abstract only, he e-mailed his revisions to me and in a note at the bottom he asked me what I thought of his revised author order. His name was first, mine second, and the name of his girlfriend (who had no part in this research or its revision) was third. I was shocked by what seemed to be a case of unethical author attribution and confronted him asking why he changed the order when we had agreed that I was primary author. He said that he had put in several hours of work.