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More South Korean academics caught naming kids as co-authors (nature.com)
280 points by pseudolus 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 111 comments



When I was in grad school our department had a meeting every morning where we could get together to discuss the latest papers which we called "Morning Coffee" (or also Astro Coffee). These discussions were pretty fruitful and regularly would inspire new papers.

After writing a new paper based on one of these discussions one of the professors decided to commemorate the contribution of Morning Coffee to the paper and added "M. Coffee" as an author. At some point word got out that M. Coffee was not a real person. From what I understand the journal got very upset. Nevertheless, the original author list still stands:

https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2001ApJ...556L..59P/abstra...


To be fair, being ground up and having boiling water poured on you isn't completely unlike grad school.


Having worked on farms, with mechanics, and with grad students, I tend to believe grad students exaggerate their misery.

While not always true, most grad students I know tend to have relatively good careers, which they are comparing grad school to. They also tend to be, relatively speaking, born into good fortune with finances and healthy families. This is not universally true, of course, but more often the case than with my coworkers in aforementiones manual labor jobs.


Every friend I have with a job that involves picking up something heavier than a laptop more than twice a week eventually finds a way to slip something like this into conversation: “Bro, you don’t work hard. I just worked a 4700-hour week digging a tunnel under Mordor with a screwdriver.”

They have a point. Mordor sucks, and it’s certainly more physically taxing to dig a tunnel than poke at a keyboard unless you’re an ant. But, for the sake of the argument, can we agree that stress and insanity are bad things? Awesome. Welcome to ~~programming~~ grad school.

from the classic "Programming Sucks" article.


My programming job was really hard, and a lot harder than grad school in econ. I personally think domain matters a lot.


This is true.

I think a lot of complaining about grad school comes from four areas:

1. As you point out people who become grad students are often fortunate people. They already have a college degree. They are able to do well enough at school to be accepted into a graduate program. This usually means that they could be getting paid 2-15X more while doing far less work at an industry job. So in comparison grad school is miserable.

2. Unlike a top high-skill job grad school is a uncertain career track. You can find out that you spent between 3-12 years of our life with very little to show for it researching something it turns out no one, including you, cares about. The uncertainty gets to some people.

3. PhD programs can place an enormous amount of pressure on the student to be independent, have new ideas and execute those ideas well. This can be a frightening experience.

4. In some fields very strange workloads placed on the student. For instance in some labs students run experiments that require performing a task every 40 minutes for 36-72 hours straight. If the task is not performed perfectly weeks of work is lost. The experiment might involve dangerous chemicals. This is like being a long haul trucker or sound engineer.


Also 2': you come in grad school to work on thing A, sub-thing B with method/tool C and your advisor makes you work on thing X, sub-thing Y with tool Z. Working on something you don't really care is way harder and a bit soul crushing.

3': you can be in a situation were you are micro-managed and required to do tasks for your advisors slightly or not even related to your subject. In my lab we have two weekly meetings, and during the Friday on everyone need to report. I feel spending more time doing powerpoint than research.


To your point about 2 I would say that the latter half probably applies to the majority of the working population.


Which probably means that they're not exaggerating their misery.

The human experience is relative. If you're stronger than you were before you feel strong. If you're poorer than you were before you feel poor.

Manual labour jobs have about as much bearing on how a graduate student feels about their day to day as does a gazelle being eaten by a lion.


I'm not sure about your conclusion. If you've never been eaten by a lion (!) then getting a scratch from a bramble seems like hardship.


The reality is that my frame of reference for discomfort and yours are different. Hunger is a great example. Plenty of people around the world subsist with hunger as a common companion. Others maintain it's _impossible_ to do anything useful whilst hungry.

> Take yourself for instance; yesterday you were better off than you are off today but it took today for you to realize it. But today has arrived and it's too late.


Coffee, M. has published 7 different papers.

https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/search/q=author%3A%22Coffee%2C...


Most of the M. Coffee papers are actually by two real medical researchers with that surname, one called Megan and the other called Michelle.


I was wondering what happens when someone has the same surname and same first initial. I was hoping it has some way of telling them apart, but it seems I was hoping for too much.


If you're in Astronomy, you may be amused to read that there is some intriguing history on virtual authors:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpher%E2%80%93Bethe%E2%80%93G...


Don’t forget Alan Smithee, a pseudonym used when a director wants to disclaim credit for a film: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Smithee

Doron Zeilberger, a mathematician, coauthors papers with his computer, which he refers to by the name Shalosh Ekhad:

http://www.math.rutgers.edu/~zeilberg/ekhad.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doron_Zeilberger


You may appreciate the story of Dr. Bestiale and the 14 updates to the story.

https://www.parolacce.org/2014/10/05/the-true-story-of-stron...

(Regarding one of the updates, the name of the antenna also means "cool antenna" in Italian, it's very informal but not vulgar).


If it's good enough for Nicolas Bourbaki...


Andre Geim (Nobel and Ig Nobel laureate) named an animal co-author, H.A.M.S. ter Tisha, in a 2001 paper about diamagnetic levitation.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S092145260...


F.D.C. Willard was a much more subtle version of this joke: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._D._C._Willard


This is awesome! Thank tut so much for sharing, I’ll be looking for that cat in East Lansing tomorrow


is coffee really the PI ?


Who thought it was a good idea to use academic paper authorship as a selection criteria for university!? There can't be enough high school kids writing academic papers for it to be that helpful, and certainly encourages this kind of cheating.


They don't have it as a selection criteria. Some context:

South Korean educational system recently had a crackdown on private academy(hakwon), and in their infinite wisdom, decided to ban every non-public educational experiences (including things like international olympiad awards) when applying for the university. Which means that the only thing you can submit in the application is SAT scores, some public education awards, and personal essays. Naturally it became the fight of who can write the most compelling personal essays for the university, and people started to let their children 'write' academic papers so that they can write stories to claim their interest and impetus on the application in hopes of impressing the judges.

So it is not a selection criteria but it helped rich & powerful people get an edge in the university application.


As a South Korean, I think most of the things described here are not exactly true, but I might be wrong. Could you provide any source?

AFAIK the history of Korean educational system is the history of Hakwon superiority in adapting to new rules. A hakwon crackdown was something the gov did in 80s and failed miserably.

Also there are now very diverse channels for univ entrance. I would think some channels still allow many of those banned criteria. Maybe they cannot be used in some prestigious public ones?


I am also a Korean and wrote this on top of my head, though I do have to admit that it has been some time since I've been a student involved in it.

I'm mostly talking about 학종 where you submit 자소서 and 생기부(학생부?), and that there's been a ban on writing non-public education related experience on the latter. As for the claim that it being part of the government crackdown an hakwon, [here](https://www.yna.co.kr/view/AKR20100407138500004) is a source I found where they directly mention it. Ctrl+f for 사교육.


> decided to ban every non-public educational experiences (including things like international olympiad awards)

How is an International Science Olympiad non-public?


It is run by a non-profit as opposed to a government. Granted the SAT would also qualify as non-public so that just confuses things further.


Sorry I meant the Korean one (CSAT?) which is indeed run by the government. That's interesting that American SAT is not run by the government directly.


As is common in the United States, we have a number of pseudo-monopolies on certain things that are run by mismanaged “nonprofits”. In this case that’s the College Board and the ETS.


From what I understand, much of the actual operations of CB / ETS are contracted out to Pearson Education (massive educational publisher).


It would be a bit odd for the American SAT to be run by the federal government when ACT vs SAT is so regional: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SAT-ACT-Preference-Map.sv...


I think the ACT largely exists because the SAT is not handled by the federal government.


I mean, at that point you are straight up lying... why not just write an essay and claim all of that without actually getting your name put on a real paper.


This is exactly what I find confusing about the whole affair. A university applicant with an academic paper authorship under their belt, while in high school, should warrant extra scrutiny, not automatically jump them to the top of the list.


It wasn't that hard for me to be a co-author on a scientific paper in high school. I just walked into some research hospitals, asked if anyone there wanted some help, and worked with some researchers after school a few times a week. I did the lab work, the charts and graphs, and the first rough draft of the paper. The researchers provided the analysis and conclusions and finalized the paper. And voila! A few months later a paper appeared in a journal with my name on it.


That’s sounds like it’d be an exceptional selection criteria. It shows hard work, dedication, follow through, and especially gumption.

How many weeks total were you there?


It also sounds pretty unbelievable.

You can't really just walk into some research hospitals and somehow find yourself talking to the right person who will get you in as a research intern. In my experiences, sadly, virtually all research interns are basically just the PI/member-of-lab's daughter/son or a collaborator's children/relatives.

One reason I can think of as to why this is is that you do really need a filter, because not having a filter will cost you immense time. It just turns out that references -- which are bound to be from your close friends and relatives -- are a signal one tends to trust.


I didn't just walk into some random lab and find someone, I went to several places and spoke with some administrators who asked around for me before I found one which wanted an assistant. It wasn't any cutting edge or sexy research, maybe that was why they don't have enough interns. I don't remember it being particularly difficult to find, though.

@koolba, I don't recall how many months I worked there, somewhere around 3~4 months, maybe?

It was Mount Sinai Hospital in New York in the 90s, maybe things are different now.


It's happened at my research institution. Then again, I run a pretty unconventional one. I took a high school student in who just had the initiative to email us and make an unscheduled visit.

Science should be for us all. Not the crony system we have right now.


You put on your resume: interned at such-and-such lab, was co-author on paper X based on work done over that summer.

Paying any attention to any extracurriculars could be thought of as "encouraging cheating"- just get someone to sign off that you actually attended Food Club, or that you interned at Widget Co., your cousin's business.


I had a lot of friends in high school who did the Intel Talent Search (since renamed or reorganized) via partnering with a lab in the nearby university. Most of them got some kind of publication and authorship out of it.

None of it was fake, and I don't think this is uncommon for applications to top schools.


It's not uncommon for individuals at elite universities to have published research in high school - especially in mathematics.


AP Capstone introduces two research focused classes with pretty high academic rigor, I think it’s great for college prep. We should do more research not less.


Another great example of Goodhart's law.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodhart%27s_law


Since I'm reading Patrick O'Brian again, I can't help but be reminded of the practice of false muster - keeping well-connected boys on the books of warships as midshipmen fraudulently, so as to accrue more service time and seniority.

Nepotism and zero-sum games just go hand-in-hand.


I don't see the connection to zero-sum. You can have nepotism in non-zero-sum games too. That might describe the traditional practice of handing down a trade to the next generation, where the bakers and blacksmiths trained their kids to do it and they took over the business when the old man retired.

Maybe people only complain when the nepotism is in a zero-sum context, where someone else is losing.


I suspect that’s a common practice. In Russian Emprie nobility’s kids were listed as soldiers when their mothers have been still pregnant. If a girl was born, the imaginary soldier was reported dead.


please proof - just curious


I remember this from 19th century novel "The Captain's Daughter" by Alexander Pushkin[0]. While the book is fiction, the practice isn't presented as something extraordinary for the mid-18th century and may very well be true. I haven't looked for non-fictional sources.

The second paragraph of the novel reads as follows:

Матушка была еще мною брюхата, как уже я был записан в Семеновский полк сержантом, по милости майора гвардии князя Б., близкого нашего родственника. Если бы паче всякого чаяния матушка родила дочь, то батюшка объявил бы куда следовало о смерти неявившегося сержанта, и дело тем бы и кончилось.

Oddly, in both English translations linked to by the Wikipedia article the mention of pregnancy and handling of the girl situation is just dropped.

In my very imperfect translation:

"My mother was only pregnant with me when through the help of a near relative of ours, Prince B., himself a Major of the Guards, I was already enlisted in Semyonovsky regiment as a Sergeant of the Guards. Were my mother, contrary to the wishes, to give birth to a girl, my father would've notified the regiment of the death of an absent sergeant and that would've been it."

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Captain%27s_Daughter


Added a rough translation which doesn't really add anything to what the parent comment said.


> The practice was probably used to improve the children’s chances of securing a university place.

The fact the competition to get into a university is so hard you need to co-author a scientific paper for this is the problem. Education should be accessible for everybody.


Not education, you mean accreditation.


It is. It’s called the library.


If you just want to learn about the theoretical side of things or if your discipline is purely theoretical (maths, etc.), then sure: You can learn from books and online materials, though chances are good it will go wrong in some way.

For instance in a field like maths it can be important to have someone correct you if you got some fundamentals wrong and it is hard to learn how to formulate a proper proof without someone checking and correcting your first attempts. It can be done, it might just take you a lot longer.

Other areas however require labs and expensive equipment for the practical applications. Some skills you can't learn from books alone.

That would be (almost) like saying: You don't need an actual bicycle to learn riding one, just read a book!


A library won't issue you a diploma employers/states would recognize.


He said education, not certification. Education happens in your head, not in a database where you have x qualification or not.


Education via libraries requires dedication and critical thinking; neither is necessary for modern universities.


And many libraries (especially my local city library) have a notable lack of technical books, so you need quite a bit more than dedication and critical thinking if you're going to go that route.


So in one place of the world professors and higher ranking academics are taking credit for the work of those working under them, in another place academics are giving credit to children who did not even contribute, and in certain disciplines (physics for instance, afaik) it is commonplace to just name everyone working in same the place as you as co-authors, whether they contributed to that specific paper or not.

Let's not forget about ludicrous amounts of bullshit-papers being produced to inflate paper counts and citations.

Whoever thinks paper counts and authorship are good metrics for anything at this point? In fact I believe they are more likely to mislead than be useful.


Years ago, I implemented a piecewise-linear approximation algorithm based on this [1] paper. I was amused that the primary author was a high schooler, the secondary working at Infineon, both in Torrance, CA. The math isn't beyond high school level, so I figured it was some AP level exercise between the parent and the child at writing/publishing a paper.

Now I have doubts :)

[1] http://www.iaeng.org/publication/WCECS2008/WCECS2008_pp1191-...


I guess this is just another flavor of claiming one's kid was a top rower for their high school crew team. But I guess many parents will use whatever means then can ( legal or illegal ) to give their children a leg up.

Also, I find it interesting that many schools ( in the US ) will do away with SAT scores because it is unfair to disadvantaged students. But they will not get rid of their legacy admissions program which is the most biased criteria against disadvantaged students. The irony here is that the SAT score was used to counter bias against disadvantaged students in the first place. It was viewed as the only "objective" part of the admissions process which could not be "bought".

My solution to end unfairness in college admissions process is a points based lottery. Each college publicly sets out a points system for GPA, extracurricular activity, SAT, athletics, legacy, etc that they will apply to an applicant and derive a score. Each college publicly sets a "mininum/cutoff" score. Every applicant with a score above the cutoff will enter an independently monitored lottery. The lottery will select the freshman class out of the pool of candidates.


Wow. I just found out about legacy admissions. To me that seems insane. This is not how it is supposed to be! I wouldn't want to apply there now. If I have to work really hard and other people get in by association ...


The lottery system is super injust for those that put the work but aren't admitted. A lot of countries in the developed world don't have the admission problem because they fund education properly.


Generally this problem is solved by having lottery buckets, with higher average grades giving access to a separate bucket (with more spots relative to the applicants). This gives people who "put the work" a higher chance to be admitted.


Legacy is unfair but the removal would lead to a tremendous outcry. My favorite story of the legacy system being broken is at Stanford, where one girl's parents are Stanford grads, along with some of her grandparents. This means that she has a free pass as long as her academics aren't bad. Legacy shouldn't span generations.


The whole British system is based on biological legacy, and has been for centuries. I’m not sure it is unjust that I can’t be the king...


Similar things occurs for Patent Applications all the time in large corporations, names of managers is usually present along with the names of actual inventors.


Just because someone is a manager doesn't mean that they can't make a meaningful contribution to an invention. In my experience, the patentable ideas can come from anywhere in an organization (and I've seen it from individual contributor level up to VPs)... but the individual contributor is always left figuring out the lower-level details of how to get this idea into production.


Ideas are easy, the execution is what's hard. If someone casually thought of a cold fusion reactor while taking a leak in the morning we would not put them on a patent for cold fusion reactors either. Where the ideas come from is immaterial, who fleshes them out is not.


I'm not trying to belittle the contributions of individual contributors (indeed, I'm an IC-level engineer who has worked out the details on many products that have been patented). The detail work is totally necessary to get a working product into the market.

But that doesn't mean that the detail work is always what is claimed in the patent. Sure, sometimes it's a smaller detail-level aspect of a product that is patented; but other times it's the higher-level system architecture that is new--so that's what gets patented. It all comes down to what is novel about the new product, and what is valuable enough that a company wants to pay for IP protections.

In my experience, engineering managers are almost always engineers themselves, and tend to still enjoy contributing to some engineering work when given the chance. Also, sometimes someone is given a "manager" or "director" title as a promotion simply because they don't have a well-developed technical track for advancement. "Principal" or "fellow" engineer may be a more fitting title for their role, but it's not what you'll see on their LinkedIn page. The point is, just because someone has a title that suggests they're only spending their day managing people, some can definitely contribute to patentable ideas enough that they should be listed as an inventor. As mentioned in another comment, the patent could potentially be invalidated if their contributions rose to the level of an inventor but they weren't listed on the patent.


If the patent ever ends up in court, they will regret listing non-inventors. Listing non-inventors or failing to list all inventors are both grounds for invalidating the patent.

The lawyers for the other side will pursue this.


An interesting spin-off I’ve witnessed here in the United States is putting a younger sibling’s name on papers and research reports submitted to things like the Intel STS and the Siemens Competition. It’s hard to show that there’s evidence of unequal contribution here.


Anecdotally, prevalent amongst India's elite too.


This phenomenon cannot be avoided as long as papers can help kids go to universities.

Maybe we can prevent parents from buying papers for their kids (this can be charged based on evidence more easily). But when the parents themselves are professors, it is just difficult to determine whether the credits are assigned appropriately.

Skills that can be accessed and learnt by the majority should be the criteria for university admission.


Vivian Darkbloom is not a exactly a coauthor, but what an exquisitely chosen name for a character. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lolita


If I had my way, I'd have each applicant stripped, x-rayed, confined to an acoustically isolated faraday cage, and sit down for an examination generated and marked by an AI system.

I've seen too many enabled people trying to game the system.


That still won't help and might make things worse.

By the time a rich student reaches college selection, he has a number of structural advantages over a poor student.

Let's take the SAT exam in the US, for example. Many poor students take the SAT effectively cold--the idea that you can prepare for that test and that paying money to prep is a good idea are simply not in scope. Whereas, a rich student is simply going to assume that obviously you prep for a test like the SAT and of course you spend money to do so.


That's not far off from what I had to go through the last time I took an education-related standard exam. Nothing but my cloths and ID were allowed into the room and they had a quite through check to make sure of it.


When I first saw the headline, I thought this was the common (but reprehensible) pattern where teachers were taking credit for their student's ideas.

But this is a bit stranger.


I've heard of this happening in the US as well.


I've seen this happen in the US among my peers when I was in high school (mid 2000's). Parents with roles in medical / biomed research were by far the most prevalent offenders.


Yeah, similar with the (formerly Intel) Regeneron Science Talent Search. Every kid happens to have a parent who's an eminent researcher of some kind.


That would be more or less the expected outcome if there was no cheating of any kind going on. If you grow up in a household where the dinner table conversation is about carpentry you’ll pick up a lot of background knowledge by osmosis and if you show the slightest actual interest most parents are very happy to share what they’re interested in with their child. Very few people become researchers without being comparatively obsessed with their field. Having family in a lab also means your path to working there is a lot easier because if you screw something up it’ll reflect badly on whoever brought you in.

I’m sure there are tons of fraudulent papers “written” by teenagers but they’re certainly not all fraudulent.


I can confirm this as well and my experience was circa 2009. The two cases where a) parent(s) or other close family were researchers or b) Non-researcher parent leveraged network to get some menial job (washing dishes) and in exchange they get listed somewhere in the research.


Usually comes in the form of some faculty's HS-age kid helping out in the lab and getting tacked-on as an author of a paper. Cleaning glassware -> authorship. This sometimes happens to faculty w/o their knowledge, with a grad student or postdoc trying to butter-up their superior.



Phdcomics are painful to read for someone who did a PhD and went through all the strips during all these years :)

Fortunately the comics did not exist at that time otherwise we would have been continuously depressed.

I will have to get the movies someday, for masochist reasons.


At the same time, a dirty trick and pure genius!


I'd call it fraud, not genius.


Sure it's a fraud, but like something from a comedy movie. Most of the time frauds are incredibly boring and time-consuming to explain. Especially financial frauds are often hidden behind layers upon layers of obfuscation. Now THAT'S what I call planning ahead!

EDIT: ...and I'll gladly pay the karma cost for that reply!


Your idea of genius seems to be simplicity. I consider genius the ability to understand things others cannot. I think the question is, how long did the researchers get away with this fraudulent act compared to bankers who created the last recession? The ability to hide something for longer from more eyes is a greater sign of genius than coming up with a trick nobody bothered to verify.

And of course, the really fucked up part is what the bankers did was legal.

I feel like you're ascribing genius to the equivalent of a parlor trick.


I don't remember the exact quote, but simple people can understand when taught, smarter can learn on their own, smarter still can teach, and a genius can simplify. Simple things are often hard to make and come from deep understanding of the system. See also: "If you can't explain something to a 6-year old, you don't really understand it."

You have a point with more eyes, but we still paint a camouflage on a tank, right?

I think what bankers do is equivalent to piling layers of duct tape/javascript. It takes a lot of time to go through it and see what it actually means.

Here, Internal Revenue Service openly admits auditing rich taxpayers is too hard. https://www.propublica.org/article/irs-sorry-but-its-just-ea... To audit them, you have to spend more time and use more senior people, which means more money. The US institution can't muster the same amount of money and specialists as rich people can. And corporations have a monetary incentive to hire people to do 'tax optimization'.


> I think what bankers do is equivalent to piling layers of duct tape/javascript. It takes a lot of time to go through it and see what it actually means.

So basically it's not smart because it's work, and anyone that can find a lazy shortcut is a genius?

Ultimately what matters is whether or not it worked. The bankers got rich and faced no jail time, despite being under scrutiny by investors, regulators, and occasionally the public. The academics committed fraud and hopefully have their careers and reputations permanently blemished as a result, not to mention undoing all of the publications they need redacted directly as a result of the act you are calling "genius."

I really think what you call genius I call laziness, and your celebration of it represents a lot of what I think is wrong with the world today.


And I think I'm amused by the trick. I admire its simplicity and far-sightedness, that's all. I mean, people have been adding their cats as co-authors just because a paper couldn't have a single author.


Very creative :-p


See also: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._D._C._Willard

I don't see anything wrong with this if the parents want to share credit with their kids. In any case, there are many cases where authorship is shared with people who didn't contribute, if universities are taking it at face value that's on them. Also, who is to say that the kids weren't onvolved in some way, maybe just as a person to bounce ideas off of.


If the kids made serious contributions, that is one thing. However, that really doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Nepotism is majorly harmful. If their kids go into academia, they already have a huge leg up from having academic parents. Let alone if they already have a strong publishing record which they did not merit. You really harm those who don’t come from that background, which of course, is how class divide can become a chasm.


Yes, but I actually think primary authors in title actually being grant proposal writers and middle managers is far more destructive to academia itself.

I think it is the norm that a lot of people get primary credit on papers for doing what managers in every field do every day, and academia is busy obscuring their own processes as a result.


> Yes, but

One fraud doesn't justify the other.


I'm not really looking to justify it. I think fish rots from the head and it's time to either buckle down to real rules for credit or stop doing multi-author papers in this fashion.

Hollywood has a credit format.. programmers have a change by change attribution system.

A serious limit to academic reform is that an institution that fixes its own rules will have trouble competing for people in many positions by having to be completely honest about the roles.


IOW, if they fail to tolerate fraud they'll have a smaller pool of candidates because unethical people won't be interested.

This is the sort of thing that's only a problem when your own prerogatives are misguided. Must academe be merely another institution that must pursue growth at all costs? If so then is the pedestal it presumes to occupy legitimate?


I think they have very few candidates because of the ethical issues, for example nearly no one in the US wants to complete an upper degree because they don't want to be exploited.

To put it differently, poor ethics is possibly a necessity to outcompete other institutions in what should be a net zero game. Instead the game is negative, we view academia overall as worse than n years ago because of the progressively lower ethics, higher administration costs and staff to compete for the same grants, etc.


> In any case, there are many cases wherr authorship is shared with people who didn't contribute

Given the reality of living in a world where references lead to enrichment, this should be considered fraud in every case. The authorship system hinges on trust. Abusing that trust for family gain is wrong.


I'm not sure this is always bad, as long is it's obvious it's not serious or for the purpose of fraud, or if the individual cited actually contributed in some way. Here's a researcher's dog, whose name was Galadriel Mirkwood, cited as a co-author:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polly_Matzinger#Dog_co-author_...

Who is to say the dog did not contribute to the author's paper and research in some way she found significant? Likewise with the children. There's tons of papers where people are cited for making the most minor contribution, like just suggesting something that reminded the researcher of something else and that's considered a legitimate practice to acknowledge their inspirational or otherwise supportive input. And yeah kids can make useful suggestions into their parents research and should be allowed to be acknowledged when that is the case.

The dog lady was banned from publication until the angry editor died! Overkill IMO as I see no fraud there. Fortunately when she was up for tenure she got it, with the tenure committee finding regarding the dog issue that the coauthorship was legitimate because "It was a real dog [a frequent lab visitor] and they said it had done no less research than some other coauthors had."

In the Korean case the article notes that after an 2018 audit of 82 papers with child coauthors they were able to determine that about half the children named had participated in the research. So at least that half were legitimately credited. The article then notes that currently 549 papers with child authorship have been reviewed, and only 24 were found to have unjustified authorship. Only 24 of 549 papers with child authors! That's only 4% of papers with child authors being unjustified. What percentage of papers without child authors give unjustified credit? Is it more than 4%? Perhaps! And certainly so for the field of ghostcredited pharmaceutical papers, a known huge problem. It's possible that papers with child authors are even less likely to have unjustified authorship than papers in general.


I do think it’s misleading to acknowledge the sorts of contributions children and dogs might make with co authorship. I do agree that often small contributions are rewarded with authorship, but really I think these are best credited in the acknowledgment section of the paper. Otherwise there is not a good way to distinguish between a substantial contribution and an ethereal one.


I should have put my grad advisor in the acknowledgements section of my 3 papers instead of as an author...


The difference being that it's often expected to put your advisor as a co-author even if their contribution was anecdotal while it's never expected to put your kids/pets as co-authors unless maybe there was a very significant contribution from their part.


I agree. What if everyone begins to include their children and pets at will, for whatever reasons they are up to today? The whole purpose of naming authors is defeated then.


Authorship is not a very well defined term, but I'm quite sure that by no definition can you be an author without actually contributing to the piece.

I think we should allow to water down the term 'Author'.


because any sort of gaming of metrics in science should be discouraged.




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