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What counts as a ‘substantial contribution’ to industry-sponsored research?


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • ISMPP Authorship Task Force has developed definitions of what does and does not qualify as a ‘substantial contribution’ for authorship to clarify ICMJE criterion 1.
  • These definitions form the basis of the ISMPP Authorship Algorithm Tool.

How should authors be selected for a scientific paper reporting industry-sponsored research? The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recommends four criteria that should all be met to guide ethical author selection. The first criterion states that all authors should have made ‘substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work’. But what defines ‘substantial contributions’?

The ISMPP Authorship Task Force carried out a member survey and literature review to investigate how ICMJE criterion 1 is defined and applied. The findings highlighted a general lack of clarity around its interpretation and inadequate documentation of contributions.

The International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) Authorship Task Force carried out a member survey and literature review to investigate how ICMJE criterion 1 is defined and applied. The findings highlighted a general lack of clarity around its interpretation and inadequate documentation of contributions. It was concluded that more needed to be done to ensure decisions about authorship were appropriate and transparent. To this end, the group developed consensus recommendations for objective and consistent interpretation of ICMJE criterion 1 to aid in selecting authors of industry-sponsored research; these were recently published in Current Medical Research and Opinion.

Definitions were broken down into each category within ICMJE criterion 1:

  • Concept and design: development or substantial modification of research idea, study design, methodology protocol, statistical analysis plan, or a combination of these activities; or
  • Data acquisition: significant contribution of data (quality and quantity) to the final analyses; or
  • Data analysis: performance of the data analysis and assurance of the integrity of the data and statistical analyses; or
  • Data interpretation: derivation of conclusions, placement of results into context, or identification of knowledge gaps for future exploration.

The Task Force also provided examples of contributions that were not intellectual or substantial enough to warrant authorship and would be more suited for an acknowledgement.

These new recommendations form the basis of the ISMPP Authorship Algorithm Tool. You can read our interview with Avishek Pal, leader of the Working Group involved in developing the tool, here.

We look forward to seeing whether the ISMPP definitions will help to optimise documentation of contributions and increase transparency around authorship decisions moving forward.

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Do you think the new ISMPP recommendations clarify what is meant by 'substantial contribution'?

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