Webeditorial 11

Conversation with Prof. Ana Marušić, lead author of The Five-step Authorship Framework to Improve Transparency in Disclosing Contributors to Industry-sponsored Clinical Trial publications

Reliable authorship designation remains a difficult issue for everybody involved in developing publications. From the Researchers, Sponsors, Medical Writers, Publication Planners and Journal Editors, each have their own opinions about eligibility and qualification. Although multiple guidelines have been published over the years, to facilitate authorship determination, these can be difficult to negotiate, especially in the context of complex multicentre, multidisciplinary research.

The Medical Publishing Insights and Practices Initiative (MPIP) recently published a Five-step Authorship Framework to Improve Transparency in Disclosing Contributors to Industry-sponsored Clinical Trial (Marusic et al. BMC Medicine 2014 12:197 doi:10.1186/s12916-014-0197-z: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7015/12/197). As advocated by Jacobs and Wager (2005), Medical Writers must respect recognised authorship criteria, and should therefore be aware of any new initiatives surrounding authorship. In this context, I had a recent conversation with Prof. Ana Marušić, lead author of the research, to gain more insight into the new framework from a Writers’ perspective:

A preliminary survey of 498 clinical investigators, journal editors, publication professionals and medical writers, revealed that low awareness, variable interpretation, and inconsistent application of existing authorship guidelines was leading to confusion and lack of transparency. For example, whether medical writers should be included as authors prompted conflicting views: whereas the editors and researchers agreed with their inclusion, the publication professionals and medical writers appeared ‘afraid’ to accept authorship.

Professor Marušić described how authorship definitions need to reflect the changing face of science, especially the complex, multidisciplinary nature of trials. Fundamentally, authorship should be fair, reciprocal and responsible. The main aim of the new framework is to encourage open and transparent authorship discussions, which occur early in the publication process. Thereafter, the author contributions should be monitored and a final decision made only before submission. Indeed, authorship could be revised throughout the process, to reflect real contributions and standard authorship recommendations.

In conclusion, any recommendations to facilitate the tricky author selection process must be welcomed as individuals, who qualify for authorship, should merit the appropriate recognition.

Jacobs A, Wager E. European Medical Writers Association (EMWA) guidelines on the role of medical writers in developing peer-reviewed publications. Curr Med Res Opin. 2005;21(2):317-22.

Julia Donnelly
EMWA President