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COVID-19: ISMPP issues guidance regarding authorship challenges

Coronavirus written newspaper

The impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the medical sector worldwide cannot be understated. In response to growing concern regarding best publication practice in the wake of the pandemic, the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) has issued ‘Official Guidance on Authorship of Peer-reviewed Publications in Which Coronavirus Disease Has Impacted Author Responsiveness’, discussed in a recent issue of ISMPP’s The MAP newsletter. The guidance, which concerns journal and congress publications, is intended to aid medical publication professionals. It is intended for situations in which the communication of time-sensitive research would otherwise be delayed by authors unable to respond due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Importantly, ISMPP highlight that the guidance does not apply to other cases of non-responsiveness and should only be used in limited circumstances related specifically to coronavirus.

The guidance reiterates the well-established International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommendations that authorship requires all of the following criteria to be achieved:

  1. Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
  2. Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
  3. Final approval of the version to be published; AND
  4. Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

The ISMPP guidance states that ICMJE criteria 1 and 2 must be met in all instances.

If criteria 1 and 2 have been met and there is a reasonable rationale for coronavirus having contributed to an author’s non-responsiveness or inability to fulfil the remaining ICMJE criteria, ISMPP’s guidance suggests that the other authors may proceed with submission, following a reasonable period of documented attempts to reach the affected author. The affected individual will still be included in the authorship list, with the agreement of all authors who have fully met the ICMJE criteria. For full transparency, authors should provide the journal or congress with an accompanying statement noting that the affected author did not fully achieve ICMJE criterion 3 and/or 4.

ISMPP note that the final decision regarding publication will fall to the journal editors or congress organisers, who may choose to:

  • accept or reject the manuscript or abstract
  • adapt the byline
  • publish a qualifying statement related to the authors.


Summary by Emma Evans PhD, CMPP from Aspire Scientific


With thanks to our sponsors, Aspire Scientific Ltd and NetworkPharma Ltd

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