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Letters to the Editor

An Ethical Argument for Preserving Medical Trainee Authorship

Lypson, Monica L., MD, MHPE; Philibert, Ingrid, PhD, MBA

Author Information
doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e3182a368e8
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To the Editor: In the March issue of Academic Medicine, Karani and colleagues1 reported that approximately one-half of responding U.S. medical students were concerned about issues regarding authorship and attribution of their effort. In our work with the Journal of Graduate Medical Education we have encountered the same problem, and we believe that one way to address it is to educate faculty about the ethical responsibilities they have when working with student and trainee authors.

In 2010, our journal published an article that, unknown to us, had omitted two trainees from the list of authors.2 They had been medical students at the time they contributed to the published work and had moved to residencies at other institutions. One of the trainees brought this to our attention, and the senior author agreed that the omission should be addressed through an erratum that added these contributors back to the official author list.

The frequent and expected transitions in formal medical education present a challenge for lead authors in locating medical student and resident contributors and including them in revisions, copyright transfers, and other work required to meet expectations for ethical authorship and recognition of contributions. Busy academicians may decide to forego these time-consuming tasks and “marginalize” the contribution of trainees. In a 2012 editorial, we discussed the ethical issues that trainees face when dealing with the authorship, the order of author listings, and attribution and acknowledgment of their work.3 Authorship should be based on the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors’ requirements for manuscripts,4 and every contributor, regardless of rank, should be eligible for formal recognition of authorship so long as they have met these criteria.

Effective conflict-of-interest policies have addressed issues of ghostwriters and problems in authorship. We must use that same fervor to address authorship issues our trainees face from their original contribution to their role in the peer-review and editorial processes. We call on the academic medicine community to educate faculty on this issue and hold them to a high ethical standard as a core expectation of their academic role. We must not mistreat our trainees and younger peers in academic publishing, for it lessens the work of the profession as a whole.

Monica L. Lypson, MD, MHPE

Associate editor, Journal of Graduate Medical Education; professor, Departments of Internal Medicine and Medical Education, and assistant dean of graduate medical education, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan; and staff physician, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan; [email protected]

Ingrid Philibert, PhD, MBA

Senior vice president of field activities and executive managing editor, Journal of Graduate Medical Education, Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, Chicago, Illinois.


1. Karani R, Ognibene FP, Fallar R, Gliatto P. Medical students’ experiences with authorship in biomedical research: A national survey. Acad Med. 2013;88:364–368
2. Rinard R, Garol BD, Shenoy AB, Mahabir RC. Successfully matching into surgical specialties: An analysis of national resident matching program data. J Grad Med Educ. 2010;2:316–321
3. Lypson M, Philibert I. Residents and authorship: Rights, obligations, and avoiding the pitfalls. J Grad Med Educ. 2012;4:138–139
4. International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. . Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals: Ethical Considerations in the Conduct and Reporting of Research: Authorship and Contributorship. Updated 2009. Accessed June 6, 2013
© 2013 by the Association of American Medical Colleges