The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors recommended four conditions for authorship:

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  • Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

These conditions can be breached either because someone with insignificant involvement has been added (gift, honorary or prestige authorship) or because those who made significant contributions have been omitted (ghost authorship). In the case of ghost authorship, this might be because a junior staff member’s labour is being exploited, or because the real author seeks to conceal his or her responsibility (for example, when a pharmaceutical company funds a trial and attributes the results to an apparently independent researcher). (see also Acknowledge)