[Taxacom] Ethics? Whose name should be written on a publication as an Author?

Stephen Thorpe s.thorpe at auckland.ac.nz
Tue Feb 23 14:40:24 CST 2010

Hi Levant:
This issue is particularly relevant here in N.Z. at the moment. I would like to be able to tell the whole story, but I will confine myself to the absolute facts, leaving out any interpretation of those facts.
The position of hymenopterist at NZAC (New Zealand Arthropod Collection, Landcare Research, New Zealand) is currently occupied by Darren Ward, but formerly by Jo Berry. This is public knowledge. Dr. Berry is the author of a web checklist of N.Z. Hymenoptera, up to and including version 6 (2007). Again, public knowledge. As can be seen from this page: http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/research/biosystematics/invertebrates/hymenoptera/2009/checklist_index_2009.asp
Dr. Ward is now sole author of version 7 (2009), a publication which could be reported back to the funding body (FRST) as an output from 2009, in the absence of much else to show for the year. To cut a long story short, there has been a bitter dispute over the authorship of the 2009 version (a dispute which I observed, but was not involved), resulting in an independent reviewer easily judging that there was insufficient grounds for Dr. Ward to even be listed as second author. This was before Christmas, and the problem was supposed to be "fixed" "early in the new year", but still no sign of action...

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Levent Can [lev.can at gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, 23 February 2010 9:54 p.m.
To: Taxacom Maillist
Subject: [Taxacom] Ethics? Whose name should be written on a publication as     an Author?

Dear all,

As far as I know one should have a minimum contribution of %10 to be written
as an author in a paper. I have read the illustrative book of Robert A. Day
"How To Write & Publish a Scientific Paper" and came to the conclusion that
the subject is a purely intellectual concept. Even in an intellectual
community. I wanted to learn what the taxacom members think about this
subject, who should be written, who should not be written, and where is the
threshold to be written in a paper?

I am asking this because I experienced a situation a few days ago. The
situation was briefly like this:
I and my colleague have decided to arrange a poster for a local conference
in Turkey. After two weeks of hard working we prepared the abstract and
wanted to show it to our mutual supervisor. After 2 hours he gave the
abstract to my colleague and said she should send it like this. Then I
realized that this abstract had four names on it, but without my name. My
colleagues name, the "supervisor"s name, and two other professors names.

As a humble graduate student in a third world country and a future
academician this experience broke my desire to science, belief and trust in
my supervisor.

*Few would dispute that researchers have to take responsibility for papers
that have their names on them. A senior laboratory figure who puts his or
her name on a paper without direct supervision or involvement is
unquestionably abusing the system of credit. There have been occasions where
distinguished scientists have put their names irresponsibly on a paper that
has turned out to contain serious errors or fraud. Rightly, some of them
have paid a heavy price.
*—Editorial*, Nature, *p. 831, 26 June 1997

Levent Can


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