Authorship for sale?
Money is believed to buy everything—including authorship in journals covered by SCI, the Science Citation Index, as revealed in an article  in Science, one of the most prestigious among journals that publish original research. Apparently, authorship can change hands during that brief window between the formal acceptance of a research paper and its publication: in the case reported in Science, during that window, ‘a total of four authors [were] added, and two dropped’.
To my mind, this is a travesty of research but yet another instance of the market principle: if demand greatly exceeds supply, then scarcity generates several illegitimate means to meet the demand. Authorship of papers published in the journals covered by the Science Citation Index is that scarce commodity in this context. Authorship in any journal, for that matter, is scarce, and ‘predatory journals’ can provide that commodity: you write a paper, pay the required page charges, and have your paper published in one of the predatory journals—those journals that are in fact published expressly not so much to advance knowledge as to provide a channel to publish the work of those who pay for the privilege.
The article from Science deserves wide publicity, and I urge the readers of Editage Insights to read it in full.
The pressure to publish takes its toll. Whereas the above incident shows how that pressure can be exploited for making money, another recent news story shows the humorous – but potentially serious – side of it: Nature reports in a recent article  that ‘Springer and IEEE are removing more than 120 papers from their subscription services after a French researcher discovered that the works were computer-generated nonsense.’ A software package, developed by scientists at MIT, can produce full research papers – complete with figures and references – on its own, with practically no human intervention . You can read more about this incident in this insightful article: Is peer review really effective? The case of 120 withdrawn papers
Editage Insights is committed to promoting genuine scholarship, and I urge our readers to avoid undesirable shortcuts to authorship.
 Science 342: 1035–1039 [29 November 2013]
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