South African Family Practice

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Authorship: practices and experiences in the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of the Free State

G Joubert


Background: The allocation of authorship of papers can lead to controversy. In medical journals, papers tend to be multiauthored and the contribution of each author is not always apparent. The International Committee for Medical Journal Editors provides clear guidelines regarding rights to authorship, and these guidelines are used by some journals. We wished to propose guidelines for the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of the Free State (UFS) and, in order to do so, first determined the practices and experiences regarding authorship in the Faculty.
Methods: Personal confidential interviews were conducted by the researcher in the Faculty of Health Sciences with first authors of papers published in accredited journals in 2000.
Results: Eighteen of the 19 first authors interviewed in relation to 28 papers were in favour of a guideline for the Faculty. The issue of authorship was discussed beforehand among the authors for just under half of the papers with more than one author (48%). No problems were experienced regarding authorship in relation to 64% of the papers. In only 9% of the papers with more than one author did all the authors fulfil all three criteria of the international guidelines.
Conclusion: On the basis of the positive feedback from the respondents, and their suggestions and experiences, a guideline was drafted for the Faculty. This should assist researchers in problematic cases and ensure that all, and only those, authors who deserve authorship are in fact listed as authors.

SA Fam Pract 2005;47(4): 57-60
AJOL African Journals Online