Original Research

Authorship Disputes in Scholarly Biomedical Publications and Trust in the Research Institution

Itamar Ashkenazi and Oded Olsha


Introduction: When authorship disputes arise in academic publishing, research institutions may be asked to investigate the circumstances. We evaluated the association between the prevalence of misattributed authorship and trust in the institution involved.

Methods: We measured trust using a newly validated Opinion on the Institution’s Research and Publication Values (OIRPV) scale (range 1–4). Mayer and Davies’ Organizational Trust for Management Instrument served as control. Association between publication misconduct, gender, institution type, policies, and OIRPV-derived Trust Scores were evaluated.

Results: A total of 197 responses were analyzed. Increased reporting of authorship misconduct, such as gift authorship, author displacement within the authors’ order on the byline, and ghost authorship, were associated with low Trust Scores (P<0.001). Respondents from institutions whose administration had made known (declared or published) their policy on authorship in academic publications awarded the highest Trust Scores (median 3.06, interquartile range 2.25 to 3.56). Only 17.8% favored their administration as the best authority to investigate authorship dispute honestly. Of those who did not list the administration as their preferred option for resolving disputes, 58.6% (95/162) provided a Trust Score <2.5, which conveys mistrust in the institution.

Conclusions: Increased reporting of publication misconducts such as gift authorship, author displacement within the order of the authors’ byline, and ghost authorship was associated with lower Trust Scores in the research institutions. Institutions that made their policies known were awarded the highest Trust Scores. Our results question whether the research institutions’ administrations are the appropriate authority for clarifying author disputes in all cases.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2023;14(3):e0015