Authorship complaints

It is important that every author of a contribution be credited as such. It is equally as important that a person not be named as an author when he or she is not.

Read more about what identifies a case

Recommended action

Elsevier's preference is for authors to resolve such matters amongst themselves, although that is not always possible.

The complainant must be made aware that the matter cannot be investigated unless the journal editor informs the corresponding author or author about whom a complaint has been made (as a matter of “due process”) and possibly the institution or company at which the research took place (the complainant may not wish to make the complaint at such a formal level).

In that communication (see Form letter A1), the editor should indicate that the matter may be referred to the institution or company where the research took place or any other relevant institution or agency (for example a funding agency) unless the author provides a reasonable explanation (accepted as reasonable by the editor). NOTE: some agencies such as the NIH’s Office of Research Integrity, will not consider disputes that are solely about authorship.

It may be advisable for the editor in this fact-finding process to request the views and comments of third parties who may be expected to have knowledge of the facts alleged by the complainant.

What if the corresponding (or complained-about) author accepts the position of the complainant?

What if the corresponding (or complained-about) author rejects the position of the complainant?

What if the corresponding/complained-about author has not responded to the editor’s correspondence?

What if the institution or company respond and indicate they will investigate and mediate the result?

What if the institution responds negatively or does not respond?

What if a funding agency is involved?

What if the authors, employing institutions and funding agencies fail to reach consensus or fail to act in a reasonable time or manner?

COPE flowcharts

These are available for a second opinion. (*) Note: there may be some minor differences between COPE-recommended procedures and Elsevier-recommended procedures. It is therefore suggested that editors always discuss and agree with their publishing contact on a course of action together.. This is often the time for the editor to discuss the case with his/her publishing contact within Elsevier and agree what action, if any, needs to be taken.

Resources and case studies