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Should authorship on scientific publications be treated as a right?
  1. David B Resnik1,
  2. Elise Smith2
  1. 1NIEHS, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA
  2. 2Department of Preventive Medicine and Population Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Glaveston, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr David B Resnik, NIEHS, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA; resnikd{at}


Sometimes researchers explicitly or implicitly conceive of authorship in terms of moral or ethical rights to authorship when they are dealing with authorship issues. Because treating authorship as a right can encourage unethical behaviours, such as honorary and ghost authorship, buying and selling authorship, and unfair treatment of researchers, we recommend that researchers not conceive of authorship in this way but view it as a description about contributions to research. However, we acknowledge that the arguments we have given for this position are largely speculative and that more empirical research is needed to better ascertain the benefits and risks of treating authorship on scientific publications as a right.

  • Ethics- Research
  • Ethics

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  • Contributors Both authors contributed to drafting and revising the article. DBR is the guarantor of the research.

  • Funding This study was funded by National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (ZIA102646-10).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.