Is this academic/scientific dishonesty/misconduct?

It’s not unheard of for scientists and academics who take management, supervisory, or administrative positions to insist that their name appear as a coauthor on scholarly papers written by people working under them, even when they made no contribution to the research or writing of the paper. For example, the department head of a research lab might insist to a scientist that his latest submission to the Journal of Underwater Basket Weaving bear his name even though it contains none of his ideas or words. Or a graduate supervisor at a university might insist to a student that his name appear on some paper for whose research the student did not consult the supervisor at all. Presumably the perpetrators of these abuses of power are doing so to artificially inflate their publication lists and academic reputations.

Is there a specific term which describes this activity? Is it one of the following?
[li]academic dishonesty[/li][li]intellectual dishonesty[/li][li]scientific dishonesty[/li][li]academic misconduct[/li][li]intellectual misconduct[/li][li]scientific misconduct[/li][li]plagiarism[/li]li[/li][/ul]


This happens in some fields and not others.

Different fields have their own practices, and the scholars within it know what it means to be listed first, third, tenth, or what have you.

If the practice is widespread, then generally everyone in a position to be impressed by one’s publications is also aware of what it means to be listed as the last author or as one of 10 authors. Perhaps the general public won’t understand, but the general public isn’t reading those journals.

I believe that in some fields, academics will list their first-authored articles separately in their CV, in a nod to the fact that these are different from the ones in which they are listed as one of multiple authors with a marginal role in the work.

While I have some concerns about the practice, it’s not clear to me that anyone is really being deceived.

The risk these “supervisor” authors take is that if there is something wrong with the research, it could possibly smear them, too (despite the “understanding” that they weren’t directly involved). I wouldn’t want my name on anything I hadn’t, minimally, reviewed. Perhaps they have a lot of confidence in the work of their mentee, or believe any problems will be caught by reviewers.

Keep in mind that a lot of time these advisors are providing funding as well research facilities and the such. And it almost never the case that they do absolutely nothing.

How does fraud sound?
If you don’t do any of the work but, benefit financially, wouldn’t that be fraud?

At least in my field (organismic biology, as opposed to cellular biology), this would be pretty rare. Generally, if a supervisor’s name appears on a paper, it is because the research topic itself was their idea, even if others carried it out. (On the other hand, I have heard of senior scientists swiping the ideas of students or technicians, but in that case the scientist then carried out the work himself.)

It can actually be much better to be listed last on a paper with 10 authors, rather than seventh (say), because people in the field realize that this position often represents the senior scientist in the lab, under whose supervision the work was carried out.

I suppose it depends on the field, but where I work there are specific positions that mean specific things.

For instance, the 1st author is the person who did the bulk of the experiments, probably came up with the idea, did some of the writing. The last author probably provided the funding, the lab space, a bunch of the ideas, and did a good deal of writing, middle authors may have provided results from a series of experiments, provided some borowed piece of dna or reagent, provided a particular animal model, etc, etc.

However, everyone is assumed to have done something.

I’ve never heard of someone providing absolutely nothing to a paper and getting their name on it.

Even if the supervisor provided nothing more than the space and funds for someone else to do work in, they still contributed.

Irrelevant, IMHO. If someone is listed as an author, then that implies that their words or ideas are in the paper. If a person or organization merely provides or facilitates funding, then they should receive at best a mention in the “Acknowledgements” section at the end of the paper.

I suppose it might be, but research scientists and professors don’t generally reap any direct financial benefits from their research. There are exceptions, of course, but most professors and researchers are paid a fixed salary regardless of how many papers they write. Writing more and better research papers earns you peer respect, more speaking invitations, increased likelihood of research grants (note that the funds go towards the research project, not one’s salary), and other less tangible benefits.

Do you know of some specific instance of this happening? That someone merely provided funding and made absolutely no contribution to the development of the ideas in a paper, but insisted that their name appear anyway?

Well, I don’t know about my field in general, but at my institution I have observed this problem of “credit co-option”. It seems to take three forms:
[li]An administrator requests credit on a work, such as a project proposal or research paper, which was produced independently by a researcher or student.[/li][li]An administrator volunteers to a third party to do some work, then passes off this responsibility to a researcher. The third party is never told of the substitution, and the researcher receives no credit. This is particularly problematic for tasks such as peer-reviewing conference and journal papers. An administrator might volunteer to review two dozen of them, and then walk down the hallway handing out the evaluation forms to researchers to complete in his name (and tough luck if you don’t understand the subject matter). The authors of the papers and conference/journal editors also get shafted because they were expecting the papers to be reviewed by someone with the requisite knowledge and experience.[/li][li]A researcher, seeking to curry favour with an administrator, offers to include his name as co-author on a project proposal or research paper he had no hand in writing.[/li][/ul]I’ve been observed or been involved in all three types of situations. For example, I once received a vaguely-worded request from an administrator to write a project proposal dealing with a particular established technology. (It was literally something like, “Psychonaut, please write a 30-page, $300,000 project proposal incorporating underwater basket weaving.”) I did so, and was then asked to include an administrator’s name as the primary co-author. As I was at the time a junior researcher who had just started, I was pressured into it; I was told that the project had a better chance of being accepted with the administrator’s name on it.

I currently find myself presented with a similar situation, only this time with a conference paper, and an even more vague request (“Psychonaut, please submit a paper to the 2006 Baluchistani Conference on Underwater Basket Weaving. I don’t care what it’s on; I just want us to have a paper at this conference.”). Unfortunately for the administrator in question, I already quit my job as of the end of this month, so they will be unable to coerce me into giving credit where it isn’t due. I will write and submit the damn paper, but it’s going to have only my name and my graduate student’s name on it.

I don’t believe that’s universally true.

I can only speak from the perspective of my own field, since I am not familiar with the practices of all fields. However, with respect to the examples you cite:

I would regard this as being unethical, if the adminstrator had no input on the proposal or article before it was written (not even in suggesting the topic), or while the research was being done (not even supervising the lab work).

This, IMO, is blatantly unethical. I would report this kind of malfeasance to the journal editor. There’s no excuse whatever for this.

This would be unethical in the case of a research paper. Project proposals are different, since they are just proposals for future work. If the researcher genuinely intends to participate in the research if it is funded, I don’t really see a problem with that.

This, on the other hand, I don’t have so much of a problem with. This is pretty common practice (though usually the project idea is more specific). Since this is just a proposal for future work, as long as the admin is expected to have some role in the project if it is funded, it’s legit. I personally have written a number of proposals on behalf of more senior scientists, though in this case I based the proposal on the scientist’s own ideas.

This, IMO, is unethical, since the admin isn’t providing any guidance on the subject matter.

For clarification, what do you mean by “administrator”? In my research institute, the senior administrators are also at least nominally research scientists, and in some circumstances it would be perfectly legitimate to be included as authors on research programs they initiated. On the other hand, pure administrators, such as grant managers, etc, would have little interest in having their names appear on a paper. I’m having a little trouble understanding how your organization works.

Well, in this case the admin probably had no intention to participate in the research, and as it turns out indeed did not participate in the research.

By administrator, I mean someone who was and nominally still is a professor and/or research scientist, but is now the head of a department or other administrative unit, and spends most or all of his time in non-research work such as meeting with the university administration, financial officers, industry partners, politicians, the press, etc. Of course, my institution also has “pure” administrators such as financial officers who have no direct interest in scientific research, but they’re not who I’m referring to.

It’s not unheard-of in physics for an administrator to be a co-author on work he or she had nothing to do with. However, in the wake of a few scandals, there’s now strong pressure in the American Physical Society against it. The idea is that any person who’s name appears on the author list is endorsing the work, and nobody should appear on that list if they’re not sufficiently involved to endorse it.

It happens. IIRC, that paper on the effectiveness of prayer, which appears to have used made up data, had as a co-author an administrator from Columbia U who it seems had nothing to do with it. On the other hand, it seems perfectly acceptable to include people who have had input on the paper, even if they did not do the lab work. Definitely not people who only funded the work, though, that is what acknowledgement are for.

For proposals, I doubt a student would get very far submitting on his or her own. The researcher’s track record is a significant part of the review of a proposal, and no one will fund a student. Unlike a paper, the name on a proposal implies some degree of responsibility for the money received, so a senior person would not add his or her name lightly.

this happens all the time, except that the student usually puts his name on the review. In my experience students often do a better job than big name professors - they are closer to recent work, and have more time to read the paper. Plus, the editor usually has no way of knowing the students directly, so having the professor farm out reviews adds to the reviewer pool. Many of my reviewers, now on their own, started this way. No issue as long as the right name is on the review. But even that is not so important - when doing an accept reject, the quality of the review should mean more than the name on it.

Very bad. I’ve never run across this one.