Kathryn Phillips's piece on authorship of scientific papers (The Scientist, Feb. 17, 1992, page 1) confirms that the profession is not yet willing to do what it must: assign authorship only to those who actually conduct research and write papers. Those who merely assist should be acknowledged in the traditional manner.
The present system of doling out "honorary" authorships has become so accepted that the profession fails to realize the serious ethical question it poses. For what difference is there between a rock group caught lip-syncing its award-winning music and a professor or laboratory director listed as an author of a paper about research he or she did not conduct? The literary profession calls this practice "ghost writing." Scientists must meet a higher standard.
I have no idea who of the several "authors" of a paper in a major journal I've just read actually did the research and wrote the...
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