Courtesy Authorship Practices Among First And Senior Authors: Evaluation Of Motivations, Gender Bias, And Inequities
*Mary Condron1, Melina Kibbe2, Kenneth Azarow3, Matthew Martin4
1St Charles Medical Center, Bend, OR;2University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC;3Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR;4Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego, CA
OBJECTIVE(S): A courtesy author is an individual who has not met authorship criteria but is listed as an author. This practice is common and often seen as victimless. Because publications are used for funding and promotion decisions, it is critical to understand potential biases in this practice.
METHODS: An anonymous survey was conducted from March-October 2020 of first and senior authors of publications from 2014-2015 in 8 surgical journals. Authors were surveyed about demographic data, practice setting, and courtesy author practices.
RESULTS: 341 authors responded (16% response rate). 75% were from academic practice settings. 14% reported adding courtesy authors five or more times in the past year. Courtesy authors were more often male (80%, p = 0.023), older (75%), and of higher academic rank (65%) than first/senior authors. When a reason was reported, 46% added a courtesy author due to fear of retaliation; 60% to avoid awkwardness. 26% expected reciprocal authorship offers as a benefit. Interestingly, 92% of respondents acknowledge understanding ICMJE authorship criteria. When fear was not a motivating factor, women were underrepresented (p=0.039.) When courtesy authors were of a lower rank than first/senior authors, they were nearly twice as likely to be female (p=0.0056) or non-white (p=0.0184.)
CONCLUSIONS: Courtesy authors were more often male, older, and higher rank than first/senior authors. Fear of career consequences was a major motivator for including courtesy authors. Senior career males were the primary beneficiaries of courtesy authorship. Understanding the motivations and pressures leading to courtesy authorship will help to correct this practice.
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