Ghost and Honorary Authorship in Ophthalmology: A Cross-Sectional Survey

Grant A. Justin*, Sarah C. Miller, Brittany Tsou, Ximin Li, Boonkit Purt, Michael J. Fliotsos, Jiawei Zhao, S. Elliott Gardner, Gary L. Legault, Yoshihiro Yonekawa, Christopher J. Rapuano, Fasika A. Woreta, Ron W. Pelton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: To evaluate the rates of ghost and honorary authorship in ophthalmology and to determine risk factors associated with ghost and honorary authorship. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Methods: Corresponding authors of articles published in Ophthalmology, JAMA Ophthalmology, and the American Journal of Ophthalmology from June 2019 to December 2020 were emailed an electronic survey. The rates of ghost and honorary authorship, demographic characteristics of the corresponding authors with and without ghost and honorary authorship, and risk factors for ghost and honorary authorship were evaluated. Results: Corresponding authors (n = 830) were emailed a survey and 278 total responses (34.1%) were received; 227 responses (27.9%) were complete and included for analysis. Most respondents (n = 206, 90.7%) believed that the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines for authorship adequately address criteria for authorship. Twenty-seven corresponding authors (11.9%) reported characteristics of their articles that indicated the presence of both ghost and honorary authorship (95% CI, 7.7%-16.1%). One hundred fifteen (50.7%) reported honorary authorship (44.2%-57.2%), and 37 (16.3%) indicated ghost authorship (11.5%-21.1%). Being a resident or fellow corresponding author increased the risk of honorary authorship (OR 11.75; 1.91-231.57; P =.03). There were no factors that predicted articles having ghost authors. Conclusions: While many authors believe the ICMJE guidelines for authorship comprehensively delineate fair authorship practices, listing authors on scientific publications honorarily and excluding authors who qualify for authorship are relatively common practices in ophthalmological research. Further investigation into the drivers of honorary and ghost authorship practices in ophthalmology, and the effectiveness of preventive measures are needed to ensure fair authorship attributions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-78
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Ophthalmology
StatePublished - Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


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