N – “With credit comes responsibility”

The Lancet has censured a lead author who claimed honorary authorship as a reason for not overseeing a paper that the journal had to retract. The author’s university has accepted this defence even though the author signed a statement before publication confirming substantial intellectual contribution. “Using gift authorship as an excuse for not taking responsibility . . . should not be tolerated,” the Lancet says. The research was retracted after legal and other irregularities became apparent—for example, in the way patient consent was obtained. See the paper (Lancet 2007;369:2179-86), the retraction (Lancet 2008;372:789), and an editorial about authors’ responsibilities (Lancet 2008;372:778).