This commentary exchange is so important I am pulling it out into general circulation. Folks, listing someone as an author without asking first is wrong on so many levels I don’t know where to begin (ICMJE guidelines for starters) & frankly cannot do the topic justice on this three-alarm afternoon here. For now, suffice it to say … no one should ever serendipitously learn that he or she has been unknowingly (& without permission) listed as an author on a submitted manuscript or published article! Update: Folks – lots of thoughtful & thought-provoking commentary, well worth the long scroll. Even Better Update: Drugmonkey has started a terrific (& needed) discussion on responsible material sharing (journal policies, replication of results in other labs, community of science, etc.). Please go forth and comment!
Even BETTER Update: Marilyn alerted us to the article “The write position. A survey of perceived contributions to papers based on byline position and number of authors” just published in EMBO reports. Of note to this discussion, “40% of the respondents … agreed that granting authorship to someone who does not meet journal authorship criteria was a common occurrence” – actually an increase from 25 years ago when an APA survey (cited by Wren et al.) showed that “28% of respondents reported having been involved in a situation where they believed that their authorship was not commensurate with their input; 21% considered honorary authorship reasonable” (Vasta, 1981).
Unusual Update: And then there is the punishment for grad student plagiarism proposed to Randy Cohen, which The Ethicist of the NYT Magazine concludes would be ineffectual.
Redirect Update: Marilyn posted under About another egregious incident of unauthorized authorship from the WSJ Health Blog.
Further update & suggestion in Nature: Marilyn points out where the offending article that started this thread was published (with flaws intact, see her comments below) – Am J Cardiol 2007;100:1609-1613 – and Kevin Yager at NIST advocates in Nature that each co-author “describe his or her contribution and … sign a final description of the division of labour” (this in response to Nature’s suggested approach to maintaining author accountability).