Hostage authorship and the problem of dirty hands

Authors : William Bülow, Gert Helgesson

This article discusses gift authorship, the practice where co-authorship is awarded to a person who has not contributed significantly to the study. From an ethical point of view, gift authorship raises concerns about desert, fairness, honesty and transparency, and its prevalence in research is rightly considered a serious ethical concern.

We argue that even though misuse of authorship is always bad, there are instances where accepting requests of gift authorship may nevertheless be the right thing to do. More specifically, we propose that researchers may find themselves in a situation much similar to the problem of dirty hands, which has been frequently discussed in political philosophy and applied ethics.

The problem of dirty hands is relevant to what we call hostage authorship, where the researchers include undeserving authors unwillingly, and only because they find it unavoidable in order to accomplish a morally important research goal.

URL : Hostage authorship and the problem of dirty hands


Reproducible research practices, openness and transparency in health economic evaluations: study protocol for a cross-sectional comparative analysis

Authors : Ferrán Catalá-López, Lisa Caulley, Manuel Ridao, Brian Hutton, Don Husereau, Michael F Drummond, Adolfo Alonso-Arroyo, Manuel Pardo-Fernández, Enrique Bernal-Delgado, Ricard Meneu, Rafael Tabarés-Seisdedos, José Ramón Repullo, David Moher


There has been a growing awareness of the need for rigorously and transparent reported health research, to ensure the reproducibility of studies by future researchers.

Health economic evaluations, the comparative analysis of alternative interventions in terms of their costs and consequences, have been promoted as an important tool to inform decision-making.

The objective of this study will be to investigate the extent to which articles of economic evaluations of healthcare interventions indexed in MEDLINE incorporate research practices that promote transparency, openness and reproducibility.

Methods and analysis

This is the study protocol for a cross-sectional comparative analysis. We registered the study protocol within the Open Science Framework ( We will evaluate a random sample of 600 cost-effectiveness analysis publications, a specific form of health economic evaluations, indexed in MEDLINE during 2012 (n=200), 2019 (n=200) and 2022 (n=200).

We will include published papers written in English reporting an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio in terms of costs per life years gained, quality-adjusted life years and/or disability-adjusted life years. Screening and selection of articles will be conducted by at least two researchers.

Reproducible research practices, openness and transparency in each article will be extracted using a standardised data extraction form by multiple researchers, with a 33% random sample (n=200) extracted in duplicate.

Information on general, methodological and reproducibility items will be reported, stratified by year, citation of the Consolidated Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards (CHEERS) statement and journal. Risk ratios with 95% CIs will be calculated to represent changes in reporting between 2012–2019 and 2019–2022.

Ethics and dissemination

Due to the nature of the proposed study, no ethical approval will be required. All data will be deposited in a cross-disciplinary public repository.

It is anticipated the study findings could be relevant to a variety of audiences. Study findings will be disseminated at scientific conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals.

URL : Reproducible research practices, openness and transparency in health economic evaluations: study protocol for a cross-sectional comparative analysis


A decade of empirical research on research integrity: what have we (not) looked at?

Authors : Noémie Aubert Bonn, Wim Pinxten

In the past decades, increasing visibility of research misconduct scandals created momentum for discourses on research integrity to such an extent that the topic became a field of research itself.

Yet, a comprehensive overview of research in the field is still missing. Here we describe methods, trends, publishing patterns, and impact of a decade of research on research integrity.

To give a comprehensive overview of research on research integrity, we first systematically searched SCOPUS, Web of Science, and PubMed for relevant articles published in English between 2005 and 2015.

We then classified each relevant article according to its topic, several methodological characteristics, its general focus and findings, and its citation impact.

We included 986 articles in our analysis. We found that the body of literature on research integrity is growing in importance, and that the field is still largely dominated by non-empirical publications.

Within the bulk of empirical records (N=342), researchers and students are most often studied, but other actors and the social context in which they interact, seem to be overlooked.

The few empirical articles that examined determinants of misconduct found that problems from the research system (e.g., pressure, competition) were most likely to cause inadequate research practices.

Paradoxically, the majority of empirical articles proposing approaches to foster integrity focused on techniques to build researchers’ awareness and compliance rather than techniques to change the research system.

Our review highlights the areas, methods, and actors favoured in research on research integrity, and reveals a few blindspots. Involving non-researchers and reconnecting what is known to the approaches investigated may be the first step to generate executable knowledge that will allow us to increase the success of future approaches.

URL : A decade of empirical research on research integrity: what have we (not) looked at?


Responsible data sharing in international health research: a systematic review of principles and norms

Authors : Shona Kalkman, Menno Mostert, Christoph Gerlinger, Johannes J. M. van Delden, Ghislaine J. M. W. van Thiel


Large-scale linkage of international clinical datasets could lead to unique insights into disease aetiology and facilitate treatment evaluation and drug development.

Hereto, multi-stakeholder consortia are currently designing several disease-specific translational research platforms to enable international health data sharing.

Despite the recent adoption of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the procedures for how to govern responsible data sharing in such projects are not at all spelled out yet. In search of a first, basic outline of an ethical governance framework, we set out to explore relevant ethical principles and norms.


We performed a systematic review of literature and ethical guidelines for principles and norms pertaining to data sharing for international health research.


We observed an abundance of principles and norms with considerable convergence at the aggregate level of four overarching themes: societal benefits and value; distribution of risks, benefits and burdens; respect for individuals and groups; and public trust and engagement.

However, at the level of principles and norms we identified substantial variation in the phrasing and level of detail, the number and content of norms considered necessary to protect a principle, and the contextual approaches in which principles and norms are used.


While providing some helpful leads for further work on a coherent governance framework for data sharing, the current collection of principles and norms prompts important questions about how to streamline terminology regarding de-identification and how to harmonise the identified principles and norms into a coherent governance framework that promotes data sharing while securing public trust.

URL : Responsible data sharing in international health research: a systematic review of principles and norms


Correcting duplicate publications: follow up study of MEDLINE tagged duplications

Authors : Mario Malički, Ana Utrobičić, Ana Marušić


As MEDLINE indexers tag similar articles as duplicates even when journals have not addressed the duplication(s), we sought to determine the reasons behind the tagged duplications, and if the journals had undertaken or had planned to undertake any actions to address them.

Materials and methods

On 16 January 2013, we extracted all tagged duplicate publications (DPs), analysed published notices, and then contacted MEDLINE and editors regarding cases unaddressed by notices.

For non-respondents, we compared full text of the articles. We followed up the study for the next 5 years to see if any changes occurred.


We found 1011 indexed DPs, which represented 555 possible DP cases (in MEDLINE, both the original and the duplicate are assigned a DP tag). Six cases were excluded as we could not obtain their full text.

Additional 190 (35%) cases were incorrectly tagged as DPs. Of 359 actual cases of DPs, 200 (54%) were due to publishers’ actions (e.g. identical publications in the same journal), and 159 (46%) due to authors’ actions (e.g. article submission to more than one journal). Of the 359 cases, 185 (52%) were addressed by notices, but only 25 (7%) retracted.

Following our notifications, MEDLINE corrected 138 (73%) incorrectly tagged cases, and editors retracted 8 articles.


Despite clear policies on how to handle DPs, just half (54%) of the DPs in MEDLINE were addressed by journals and only 9% retracted. Publishers, editors, and indexers need to develop and implement standards for better correction of duplicate published records.

URL : Correcting duplicate publications: follow up study of MEDLINE tagged duplications


Open science and codes of conduct on research integrity

Author : Heidi Laine

The purpose of this article is to examine the conceptual alignment between the ethical principles of research integrity and open science. Research integrity is represented in this study by four general codes of conduct on responsible conduct of research (RCR), three of them international in scope, and one national.

A representative list of ethical principles associated with open science is compiled in order to create categories for assessing the content of the codes. According to the analysis, the current understanding of RCR is too focused on traditional publications and the so called FFP definition of research misconduct to fully support open science.

The main gaps include recognising citizen science and societal outreach and supporting open collaboration both among the research community and beyond its traditional borders.

Updates for both the content of CoCs as well as the processes of creating such guidelines are suggested.

URL : Open science and codes of conduct on research integrity


Biomedical authors’ awareness of publication ethics: an international survey

Authors : Sara Schroter, Jason Roberts, Elizabeth Loder, Donald B Penzien, Sarah Mahadeo, Timothy T Houle


The extent to which biomedical authors have received training in publication ethics, and their attitudes and opinions about the ethical aspects of specific behaviours, have been understudied. We sought to characterise the knowledge and attitudes of biomedical authors about common issues in publication ethics.


Cross-sectional online survey.

Setting and participants

Corresponding authors of research submissions to 20 journals.

Main outcome measure(s)

Perceived level of unethical behaviour (rated 0 to 10) presented in five vignettes containing key variables that were experimentally manipulated on entry to the survey and perceived level of knowledge of seven ethical topics related to publishing (prior publication, author omission, self-plagiarism, honorary authorship, conflicts of interest, image manipulation and plagiarism).


4043/10 582 (38%) researchers responded. Respondents worked in 100 countries and reported varying levels of publishing experience. 67% (n=2700) had received some publication ethics training from a mentor, 41% (n=1677) a partial course, 28% (n=1130) a full course and 55% (n=2206) an online course; only a small proportion rated training received as excellent.

There was a full range (0 to 10 points) in ratings of the extent of unethical behaviour within each vignette, illustrating a broad range of opinion about the ethical acceptability of the behaviours evaluated, but these opinions were little altered by the context in which it occurred.

Participants reported substantial variability in their perceived knowledge of seven publication ethics topics; one-third perceived their knowledge to be less than ‘some knowledge’ for the sum of the seven ethical topics and only 9% perceived ‘substantial knowledge’ of all topics.


We found a large degree of variability in espoused training and perceived knowledge, and variability in views about how ethical or unethical scenarios were. Ethical standards need to be better articulated and taught to improve consistency of training across institutions and countries.

URL : Biomedical authors’ awareness of publication ethics: an international survey