February 10, 2016 | Elena Tranchant, External Peer Review Supervisor

Avoiding unethical authorship on your journal


As a journal editor you may have come across issues related to authorship, such as:

  • Authorship disputes, i.e., disagreements between collaborators regarding the contribution to the work reported;
  • Adding or removing author names from a manuscript, with or without the author’s knowledge and permission.

Ideally, authorship should always be agreed by all authors before they submit their paper to the journal; however this is not always the case, and authorship issues can arise during peer review or after the publication of an article. These cases can create delays during the peer review process, and if papers are published without the co-authors’ consent or knowledge, papers may have to be retracted from the journal.

What is authorship?

co-author is any person who has made a significant contribution to a journal article, and who shares responsibility and accountability for the results. This means that:

  1. They have made a significant contribution to the work reported, whether that’s in the research conception or design, acquisition of data, analysis and interpretation, or in all these areas.
  2. They have drafted, written, or revised the article.
  3. They have reviewed and agreed the final version of the article before submission.
  4. They have agreed on the journal to which the article will be submitted.
  5. They are aware that they are taking responsibility and accountability for the content of the article.
  6. They are aware that the corresponding author will be acting on their behalf in any communication about the article, through submission, peer review, production, and after publication.
  7. In line with standard publishing ethics, if the article is found to be unsafe, in error, in some way fraudulent, or in breach of the publishing agreement, that responsibility is shared by all named co-authors.

See here for more information on defining authorship.

What should a journal editor do when these guidelines are not met, and cases of authorship disputes or misconduct arise on their journal?

If an authorship dispute is brought to your attention during peer review, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines suggest best practice is to suspend the review of the paper and send it back to the authors. The authors should contact the journal when the authorship list has been agreed and confirmed.

If you come across an authorship dispute during peer review or after the acceptance of a manuscript for publication, please contact your Taylor & Francis Managing Editor for support in handling the issue.

How to prevent authorship related problems on your journal

In order to help avoid authorship issues in your journal, we have compiled a simple checklist below which you can refer to when papers are submitted to your journal:

  • Check that all authors are named both on the manuscript file and the peer review system submission form.
  • Double-check the validity of all co-authors’ contact details.
  • Send all authors a notification email informing them that their paper has been submitted to the journal. Your online peer review system should be configured to do this automatically, but if you are unsure you can check the audit trail for any submitted manuscript.

For more information on how to check co-author information and why this is important, please see our article on checking co-author information.

The full range of COPE guides and resources are available to Taylor & Francis journal editors. Useful guidelines for tackling authorship problems are:

What to do if you suspect ghost, guest or gift authorship

How to handle authorship disputes: a guide for new researchers

Published: February 10, 2016 | Author: Elena Tranchant, External Peer Review Supervisor | Category: Ethics and rights, Front page |