PAND – PhD Association Network of Denmark would like to examine the use and experiences concerning ’ghost authoring’ at universities. We do this in order to shed light on the current work and research environment that have been continuously worsened during the last couple of decades due to several cutbacks, decreased possibilities of true democratic participation and an increasing focus on quantity instead of quality of research. We are of the opinion that we have the power to change this structure and create a flourishing and trustful research environment with fruitful collaborations and with the room to make mistakes, think truly original, and the room to ask the right questions instead of merely coming up with the anticipated answers. However, we have to start speaking up and being honest about our working conditions. This is the only way, we can have a clear view of what changes that are needed in order to improve our conditions as a whole. ‘Ghost authoring’ is a symptom of and a phenomenon unconsciously supported by our current research culture and practice – although all universities have agreed to follow ‘codes of research integrity’ that clearly reject this kind of behavior. Ghost authoring occurs when for example a colleague takes credit for the work of another person (sometimes called “reverse plagiarism”). Even though all universities have clear rules in place regarding ethics and practice (following the Vancouver recommendations), most academics are familiar with the culture of ‘ghost authoring’ in one way or another. ‘Ghost authoring’ can occur when for example: Many academic journals suggest that senior academics should not be included unless they “significantly” contributed to the work. Yet, this is often forgotten, for example in the close personal relationship that often exists between a PhD student and a supervisor. Ideas do not thrive in hierarchies and distrustful environments – they thrive in equal and transparent partnerships. Now more than ever, we are in a time where we need great ideas and room for brilliant researchers that do not necessarily have sharp elbows. Therefore, we sincerely hope that you want to show your support by being honest and speaking your truth: Crediting the campaign on ‘sexist behavior and harassment in academia’ that ran during the fall 2020, we use a similar strategy to unfold the culture of ‘ghost authoring’. The stories below are experiences shared with us. 69. I witnessed other cases of ghost authorships in the same laboratory.
1. My thesis was very specific, a bit revolutionary for my area… and the professor has published a chapter in a book that is almost a rip off 1:1. The worst part? The professor discredited my thesis and gave me a poor grade – whereas my peers have given it very good reviews. The culture and leadership at the University is terrible, and the senior faculty ought to be sacked. Being an exchange student I am shocked by the university’s incompetence, terrible management, hazardous administration and that even when you complain they just mess up even harder. Thank god I’m out of there!
2. As we approached submitting my second paper, he [advisor, red.] thought it best to add five co-authors. That way our results seemed more important (by association with several scientific authorities), and it would certainly benefit his networking. Ultimately, three of the new authors never opened the online document, 1 never commented and only 1 would write an email concerning minor grammatical errors. Thus, my own authorship was fractionally reduced (my name hidden in the crowd of senior people). I later learned that not all advisors coopt students results – having since found great help and feedback from later advisors. But remember it can be terrible hard to stand up to your advisor. They are you mentor, your teacher, sometimes your friend and someone you look up to. The power dynamic remains incredibly uneven; they have experience and a vast (and powerful) network. You need their recommendation for future applications and to progress in your own career. To this day I cannot confront my first advisor – I will need his network to advance in academia, but (for now) I can at least find solace in writing these anonymous words of frustration.
3. My professor often tells me that he wants to co-author articles that I have written and developed completely on my own – and distinct from the original project. He only has minor contributions (like spelling and grammar).
4. Senior academic is listed on every single paper that leaves our department without living up to Vancouver guidelines. No substantial contribution. Simply being the leader of the department warrants an authorship
5. I have witnessed that project grants and ideas were developed by junior staff and all credit was assigned to senior staff – in one case the junior researcher was not employed on the project she developed and wrote.
6. “Agreement” of: if I put your name on my paper, then you put my name on your paper. Win-win solution?
7. Gifting authorship is extremely common and happens both to other senior academics that the person wants to stay on good terms with, or to employees that the person wants to favor over others.
8. I wrote a review with another student. I was supposed to be the second author. At some point a post doc in that group was looking for a new job so it was decided that she would also be on that review. The extend of her contribution is not more than having read the manuscript and having told us that we should add a few additional references, yet in the end she ended up becoming the second author to help her find a job.
9. The subject of one of my PhD projects was suddenly also the subject of a master’s student’s thesis. I was not informed, and I did not supervise it.
10. [Ghost authoring or honorary authoring, ed.] has no repercussions from management, as the senior academics are the management. If I voice Vancouver guidelines, I am being told that they ALWAYS live up to Vancouver guidelines, and I am just not understanding just how much they were part of the conception of the projects.
11. A year ago, I was invited to co-author a large project grant proposal with three professors (incredible team; and what an honour to be asked). I received a crude first draft of a literature review from one of the professors as well as a description of the quantitative part [of the project, red.] and started working on the application, research question, arguments, and the qualitative part of the project. I ended up working on the entire application including budget and layman description etc. The application, with my manager as PI, was submitted to two funds. But when the application was to be send to a new fund, only three applicants were allowed and suddenly I was removed as applicant although I was the main author. I was given the following reason: “There is no lack of recognition of your extensive work or of the great part of the project that is qualitative. This is about including the co-applicants with the most research experience (and research management experience) hoping that it will increase the application’s chances of obtaining funding. And really, I did not expect it to have any practical consequences to you.” The problem is that if my name is not on the application, I have no claim to part of the funding (nor has my institution), since all funding would go to the professor in question. If I was to be employed elsewhere in the meantime, the professor may snatch all the money. Fundamentally, it is a systemic problem related to the requirements of foundations and the absolutely sick competitive pressure at universities today. In addition, you are often not able to be the main applicant of a grant proposal as a post. doc., since that requires a permanent position. My nearest leader was extremely worried when I told him about this incident. The application was meant to ensure my employment at his center, but since I was not a co-applicant our institution had no right to the potential funding. He asked me to send the entire email correspondence to him. The case is not yet closed.
12. I have several supervisors, half of them doing very little and e.g. not replying to emails and the like. Yet they expect to be listed as authors even though they do not fulfil the Vancouver guidelines for authorship.
13. I have seen this a lot: authorships being traded for favours of sorts. It seems to me that supervising PhDs is an easy way to get your names on papers and seem productive. E.g. when you pay a statistician for help with statistics they should not be listed as authors.
14. This happened during my MSc. studies where I with a group of students were developing a diagnostics device under a special project course. We got some promising results and indicated to our supervisor, whom was a senior researcher that we would like to follow up the development after the course has finished. She offered to look into and apply for funding. In the end it turned out that she applied and was granted a large sum of money but none of the students were part of the application and the grant. She then continued the research on her own with the money and without including anyone from the original student group. She ended up filing a patent where again she did not want to include any of the original student inventors but I have spoken up and claimed to be a co-inventor as well as some from the original student team. It was a very stressful experience and as a student I felt used.
15. Theoretical ideas shared, stolen without permission.
16. At the beginning go my PhD I worked in a group where they didn’t really know what I could do there, so they had me plan and map out a number of projects. I switched groups a bit after but I never got to work on these projects that I came up with and mapped out but that group went on to announce them as possible PhD projects for future students. So in other words, there are two PhD students in that group right now doing projects that I came up with and I designed.
17. I have five co-supervisors on my PhD project. They all expect to be co-authors on all articles even though some of them did not participate at all.
18. Senior academic adds entire research group to all papers even if the individual members had no role in the individual research project to boost citations and index.
19. So in general ghost authoring is definitely an issue at that center [at university A, ed.] but they have a lot of other issues as well, probably mostly because almost nobody involved in the fancy management positions actually lives in Denmark or comes by more than once or twice a year. So about how these issues are being handled by management: badly. I ended up striking a deal with management that I can finish my PhD at University B rather than at University A because I’ve got a grant for myself that is not bound to an institution, but I still have to deal with these issues since I am still in the PhD school at University A.
20. My supervisor complained that he was not listed as co-author on a paper I wrote for which he did not contribute with any work. His only argument was: “it took place in my lab.” I have a sound recording of this.
21. My supervisor put pressure on me to add a specific consultant doctor to a paper because: “she has applied a lot of funds within this area.” I was to make sure that she was included (I have a sound recording of this).
22. I payed a laboratory technician for doing standard work (cut slices of tissue out of a paraffin block for histology) and the head of that laboratory demanded a co-authorship.
23. I switched groups but the issues remained; in that new group my new supervisor took my PhD project proposal and, without consulting me first, submitted it as a grant proposal under his name. That supervisor ended up getting kicked out of the center for a number of reasons, not for the way he treated his students though.
24. My supervisor want his other PhD students to be a co-authors on all of my articles, even though they are not a part of the project in any way.
25. I know of other PhD students who experienced having their research “stolen” or were pressured into offering co-authorship to professors who did not contribute to the work. I have heard of such stories both at department A, department B, and department C at university D. I have witnessed this several times at several faculties.
26. I wrote an email to a senior researcher at another university in which I asked if the data in one of his publications was available. He replied that the data could be available if I included him as a co-author in any future paper where the data would be used. I asked my supervisor how I should respond to this. My supervisor said that I should accept because that is the common practice. This is despite the fact that the researcher only handed over data (which is already described in a publication), and did not contribute any further to my study. I have not finished the paper yet, so I don’t know how the reactions will be when I ask for feedback on the manuscript.
27. The data I collected during my thesis has been supplemented with similar experiments to make a “higher impact” story, and my part has not been aknowlegded. I repeatedly asked my supervisor (after the project period) if there was anything I could do and that he should let me know when they started the manuscript – he ended up not replying me.
28. The supervisors took my first 1st author project and included and published it as their 1st author and/or corresponding authors manuscript. I was included as a 2nd author, but this blocked me from finishing my PhD studies in time as I had to start working on a new project in my 2nd year of PhD. The research director at that time believed everything the supervisors said to him. I felt I had no one to speak to about it and ask for help. (Not to mention that I was pushed to work almost 24/7 and pushed to accept their incorrect results and sexist comments and bullying.)
29. I have personally experienced being invited into a project by a professor to complete a full manuscript based on the project’s data, including development of key ideas, literature review, data analysis and full write up. When the manuscript was completed, the professor invited another senior professor on as co-author without my knowledge or consent. When the paper was rejected in the first journal, they took the manuscript to submit it themselves, barring me from working on the manuscript, any of the ideas in it or the data analysis, leaving me with nothing to show for 1.5 years of work.
30. In a new article, my supervisor simply copy pasted several sections from my previous articles into his new article, so he didn’t have to rewrite sections about the method of data collection and other things. I have only been credited as second author.
31. I forwarded a grant application to a person I wanted to be part of an expert panel hoping for a positive response to increase the application’s chances of success. Unfortunately, I was not awarded funding. However, three months later I noticed that a colleague from another research institution had received funding for an identical project having an identical idea, research question, methods etc. That colleague was close friends with the person from the expert panel, whom I had send the original application. I talked to my manager about it, but he just said that we could not prove anything so there was nothing we could do about it.
32. My idea for a specific way to process data was stolen via a bachelor student. They wrote a paper, got fame, and my direct leader only asked the responsible PI something like “did you copy him?”, to which he of course denied. Nothing else happened and I feel like the bad guy. Even though I have evidence on paper that they did not know anything about the very method and the use in that specific context before I mentioned it to the bachelor student.
33. A researcher rewrote a master thesis of his student into a scientific article. The student was only listed in the acknowledgement and was not given co-authorship despite her significant contribution to the work.
34. It [ghost authorship/honorary authorship, ed.] happens everywhere, e.g. doctors who provide patient samples but do not contribute otherwise.
35. I had to rewrite my PhD thesis. Although I had published several peer reviewed scientific papers during my PhD, it was not considered “enough” to support the theoretical perspective I had taken – a theoretical perspective which the assessment committee was apparently very critical of. When I handed in my thesis, my supervisor had no doubt that my work was more than acceptable. But as soon as the committee asked for a rewrite, her attitude changed considerably… I had no other option but to succumb to the critique, in particular since I acknowledged some of their points – other points, however, did not really deal with m work but the theoretical school I adhered to… I chose to completely abandon the original thoughts and pursue another direction. The rewrite ended up taking a year and I had no contact to academia for the major part of that year. I ended up being offered temporary appointments at another faculty at the university until I had my degree and was able to be employed as a post. doc. So, I returned to academia by other routes and, therefore, started reading the literature from related areas of the research. Doing this, I was honestly shocked: The use of theory completely rejected by my assessment committee had been published in a paper with my supervisors name on it – exactly the same combinations of exactly the same theoretical texts. Written in her words and used to analyse another example, but unmistakably the same… When, surprised, I shared the experience with another of her PhD students I was casually told that apparently this was not the first time she did this trick. However, no one dares to fall out with her; she is a professor and VERY persistent when being opposed. She probably can’t ruin my career now as I am going in another direction, but I am honestly scared what she might do if I shared the story in public.
36. I have been asked to include co-authors to my manuscripts, that have not contributed in any way, shape or form. They had not commented on anything other than the spelling of their own mention of affiliation, so probably not read the manuscript. It was my supervisor who asked me to do this, because “it is how we do it. If you chose not to do it, it will be a very strong signal to send” and would “burn bridges”. The co-author was assigned to be a co-supervisor, but did not contribute with anything substantial to any part of my PhD training. This did not only happen to me, it was truly “the way we do things” and sadly, it still is. It happens all the time, all around. I still have to include the same co-author to all my work as long as I am a PhD student, because allegedly “they contributed to my becoming a PhD”. But they did not contribute to anything, did not help me, guide me, answer questions, ask questions, nothing. They are truly just a name on the paper. I have disputed this practice in the beginning, but I strongly sensed that I should just comply. As a PhD student, I am the bottom of the food chain and the best I can do is to make the seniors happy and finish my work. After finishing I can chose not to continue this practice.
37. I have witnessed several examples, where junior scholars (PhDs, postdocs and assistant professors) have collected data as part of their phd project, but their supervisors expect and/or demand to remain co-authors on ALL papers published based on this data, even if they do not contribute anything on the individual papers in question.
38. My entire department is rotten – researchers are not allowed to be last author, even if we live up to the requirements.
39. On a first author project – my supervisor tried to take me off the lead as first author because I refused the environment of sexual predatorship and harassment in that place. I felt completely shocked and deeply demotivated, also due to the ignorance of the research manager (he must have known about the sexual predatorship at that time) and other bystanding group leaders or senior researchers. Moreover, my hard drive with some data on it related to this project disappeared from my office table. Basically no one from the senior research employees including the research director talked to me directly about this horrible act (which was an open bullying). I almost lost all the motivation to continue with work on this project and till this day, I am afraid that the supervisor will take me off this 1st author project as well (as I am not in the lab anymore, thus not working on the project). I feel I have no one I can ask for help right now. To finish my PhD studies, I had to finally start on a third 1st author project in huge hurry and as a result developed big burn-out and lost my motivation for research.
40. During a research seminar, we were asked by the head of our research group to come with ideas for publications we could develop together in the group. I came up with the idea to do a critical paper on a methodology in high ranking management journals. I was a PhD student at the time. I saw that the head of the research group recently got a paper published with another colleague from the group, where my idea has been used.
41. My biggest mistake as a first year PhD student was to indicate the co-authors on the top of the paper each time I started to write a new paper. In this way all three of my supervisors were always there. This mistake was inspired by the thought shared by my Main Supervisor in the first days of my PhD who said that “We will always write together”. I had mistaken this as a promise to contribute and teach me how to write. Here we are early in my PhD when I dedicated several months to write my first conference paper. Once the first draft was ready I circulated it with my supervisors and thus co-authors. The first one honestly stated that it is not at the core of his work, but did his best to offer some contribution. The second one corrected a few spelling mistakes. The third one wrote ‘Thank you!’. During the conference I received an award for this very paper. But that’s not the end of the study. About six months after the conference my main supervisor came to me to congratulate me on an excellent paper. He had just read it and had to tell me that I did a great job. Until today my first conference paper remains the most cited paper (500+ GS citations) of both my Main Supervisor (who kindly corrected a few spelling mistakes) and my ‘ex’ (third) co-supervisor who was very kind to express his gratitude for my hard work of several months.
42. My thesis supervisor and co-supervisor have plagiarized my master’s thesis and the Ministry of Education and Research under the Danish government sweeps the matter under the rug.
43. (I have, red.) definitely (experienced this, red.), in my last paper there are 6 authors. Two of them are professors that do not have a clue about what was going on in the paper, they had to be there because they were in my grant. Another co-author one day mentioned a general mathematical process that could possibly help and he was added because of that, despite that he was absent in all the process, until he quit and he actually never even reviewed the paper. After the paper was finished and submitted but not the final version, my supervisor decided that we had to acknowledge a student that had replicated the model (not contributed to anything on the submitted project) for a project. In general, I have had a bad dynamic with my professor about praising people out of interest and mostly diminishing my work.
44. At my current institution ghost authorship (GA) is supported by the management and directly encouraged in for instance working group gatherings and other meetings with officers in the institution. GA is very much a part of daily practice at the faculty and it is openly talked about as well as considered a common part of conventional academic work on a general level. Furthermore, GA is regarded as a kind of ‘academic currency’ with which to trade and include (or lure) academic pings/capacities/big shots into future collaboration.
45. I have witnessed projects where a range of peripheral senior actors/professors, not directly engaged in the actual research, are promised roles as authors on scientific publications/articles in exchange of their participation in meetings, overall discussions and the like.
46. My personal takeaway is that “idea fights“ can have strong negative effects on moral, especially if people use gossip, ridiculing (what is now called gaslighting) and other tactics to get their way. I also understood that the person who tried to take the idea — which as a result was never published — was afraid they could not come up with their own PhD topic/ idea. It was a fear reaction that turned into anger and spread to other colleagues as a misaligned mentality. In part because, despite repeated efforts, the supervisor did not understand the problem and instead let a survival of the fittest (most gossipy) culture take place. We could all have done more to resolve the situation, but it feels like everyone would benefit from a course on the issue.
47. Using graduated PhD students’ ideas and results, and applying for patents with few changes without acknowledging them.
48. If an article or book in my research group is based on a dataset that needs description (e.g. in the form of descriptions of each datapoint), the people that have collected and described the data (often research assistants) are not co-authors or editors, even though they contributed massively to the article or book. Without their work, the article or book would not have been written after all and large parts of the writing are the descriptions of the dataset (as the premise of the article or book is often the publication of the dataset).
49. I have worked as a research assistant for a professor. The job included writing texts for her consulting company. There was nothing about being a ghost writer, or renouncing my authorship in that contract. Besides never citing my name in all the texts I have fully written for her, I could also see big chunks of my texts appearing in one of her academic publications. When I asked her about this issue, she replied to me saying that she had to rewrite the texts (which was not true) and stated that confronting her about this and letting other people know about this matter could seriously jeopardize my hiring process at another university, since she could easily talk to friends of friends that worked there and state that I was a difficult person to work with. I was in a vulnerable situation and I did not want to face this risk. When I started to work at the other university, fortunately, I figured out she did not have any connections at this university, but rather was just a friend of a friend who knew someone involved in the hiring process.
50. I have experienced that the empirical material attached to a former PhD application was used by a professor at my institute without crediting me or asking me for permission. I realized when his PhD asked me for help to gain access to the fieldwork I have done. I mentioned it to my project manager but we did not file a complaint.
51. I have experienced that a researcher took an idea from a bachelor’s thesis and published an article based on it without crediting or asking for permission from the now MA student. The student did not file a complaint.
52. My MSc thesis was rewritten by my supervisor into an article published in a scientific journal. He promised that I would be included in the author’s list. However, when the paper came out, I discovered myself included only in the References section saying brief thanks. I did approx. 50% of the computational work. The experience was not handled.
53. The group leader was included in the paper, but did nothing. Instead of him, his PhD students and collaborators did the analysis and developed the method.
54. As a PhD student I was assigned a main supervisor by the section leader. I pointed out that my main supervisor was not an expert in my area of interest but she went ahead anyhow. When it comes to publish our papers he cannot do more than checking the spelling and format. I consider that it is not his fault but that of the management.
55. PI took my data, analysis and results while I was on maternity leave and put it into his own article – him as first author and me as second author. An article that we had agreed, I would write after my leave had ended.
56. Extremely relevant theme; I can contribute that I have experienced coming up with the research idea, writing the protocol, and secure most of the funding, while afterwards being left out as co-author because I was no longer on the permanent staff – one example out of many of a culture that needs to be changed.
57. I have witnessed around 3 times that a senior professor took it for granted to be included as an author on a paper because he/she had a) secured money for the overall project or b) because of supervision. In all cases the paper idea was independent work from the PhD and postdoc and supervision limited to adding a few comments and suggestions to the argument.
58. I was lead author and co-corresponding author on a paper that was back from review. My advisor was the other co-corresponding author and was facilitating the submission process. When my advisor resubmitted the paper they added a co-author who had absolutely nothing to do with the project in any way (did not even read it!). When I confronted my advisor, they said it was done for “political reasons.” Besides this being completely unethical and immoral, I felt deeply betrayed and hurt.
59. I have witnessed several times that PhD students are pressured beyond what is reasonable to deliver papers where senior staff are to be co-authors (e.g. during maternity leave or sick leave caused by the stressful work environment).
60. Senior faculty routinely using their position to obtain co-authorship on papers they have not contributed to beyond providing their name and affiliation.
61. In three articles during the last year, I have been contributing the majority of the work; the topic was given by my co-author (who holds the funding), but the structure and actual content was developed by me and all the research for the paper was done by me. The comments by the co-author were limited to language corrections and comments on where to cut or elaborate on the content. It was thus more like a feedback than active participation in the writing of the article. However, my name is second on each paper, as we organize authors alphabetically. It has never been discussed why we do this and there is no note that states that the authors are listed alphabetically or who contributed what to the article.
62. Medical students obtaining authorship as “payment” instead of money for including patients, but not contributing sufficiently to meet the Vancouver criteria.
63. During my PhD I had an accident that left me ill for over a year. My contract with the university ended when I was sick. A paper which my advisor did not co-author or contribute to was accepted for publishing during this time. She was not happy about this. In order to get back to my thesis, I had to get a PhD extension due to illness, and my advisor needed to sign this form. She refused to sign it until I agreed to a list of demands, including that her name be included in the other papers I had already written and just needed to finish up. To this day, I’m pretty sure she never even read any of the papers.
64. I did some work for which I was not credited later when the results were published. I found my figures and images in the paper by chance as I had already left the lab by then and nobody notified me about such a publication. I would have expected to be at least in the acknowledgement section, which was not the case, so I felt used. To this day I still have not found a way to deal with this, there aren’t many resources available for students and it is very ambiguous what is considered creditable by some groups so some of us do not know what our rights are, especially once it has already been published.
65. I´ve been working on a research project, in which I have contributed to the design and collection of data together with two other colleagues. Based on the data I planned to write a paper on a specific topic, which I´ve discussed with my supervisor. However, my supervisor took the lead (first author) in this paper without communicating this with me. In this paper, I´m included as a co-author. However, another colleague has been included as the second author without having any or at least very limited contribution to the paper.
66. I wrote a paper together with a PhD colleague and my supervisor. The idea for the paper was mine and I invited the others to join. After having sent the paper for publishing, my PhD colleague realized that the person’s supervisor was not included on the author list and demanded the supervisor to be included. This was despite the fact that the supervisor had not contributed to the paper other than supervising my PhD colleague (supervision that I was not a part of and was not about the paper). I ended up rejecting the supervisor. It was an uncomfortable situation for me and my PhD colleague to be in.
67. I’ve been stolen ten years of my works with no credits.
68. My supervisor took data that I collected and wrote an article about this without informing me that the person was going to do so.
70. From my PhD project there was made a patent together with my supervisor and a representative from a company. Not that it will ever come to use, but due to certain circumstances, I was removed from the author list. I was told this, but at that point in time I was not aware that it made me not able to publish about the topic this during the whole patent pending period. Following this, I have realized that this was probably in the grey area of what is okay. Even though there was openness about it, it was hardly okay.
71. During the period of 10-12 years, different cases have happened regarding ghost authoring. The last one emerged when the peer-reviewer took my idea and applied later to the person’s article, even the editor of the journal was familiar with my work.
72. 12 years ago after my master’s thesis, a teacher took my powerpoint and presented it in a conference without asking me.
73. Ghost authoring is deeply frustrating, but to get 10 years of work, data and data analyses stolen, is like losing the will to live. So once qualifications to apply for job is low. However, it is also the wish from the people who take data. They have previously plagiarized them without being convicted. All this started when I was a PhD fellow, but continued long after. There have been many years and I am still being harassed. I have talked to many people about this, unions, staff representative, political parties, media, lawyers, international researchers. The people I worked with knew this happened. International researchers highly ranked opposed it, but nothing happened, nothing. I got the possibility to run a case on gender discrimination, but when the whole process was about to begin the union and staff representative withdrew themselves from the case because they realized what they might risk themselves. My life was ruined. My partner was also a researcher at a university. Our lives are ruined. My career is ruined. I never got a job. The management and seniors have the power, they take data and do whatever fits them, everyone believe them and nobody dare to do anything about it. Damn the law, if you have the right friends in DK.
74. During my PhD I came up with two ideas that were related to my PhD project but clearly distinct from the original project. Thus, they were not part of the original project idea developed by my supervisors. I asked my supervisors if I could develop these ideas during my PhD and invited them to take part in the work. I was allowed to work on the ideas but they did not get involved at all. My supervisor “A” whom I invited on the idea “1” didn’t answer my invitation to take part in the work and for over one year never asked once how the work was going. The idea turned out to be a success, and as the paper was ready for publication he argued that his name should be on it because he was my supervisor. I asked my supervisor “B” (main supervisor) to read the manuscript draft of the idea “2” because I was unsure whether it was relevant to publish. After three months she came back and said that she wasn’t sure whether it could be published. That was the only comment I ever got from her. Supervisor “A”, who was the group leader, argued that supervisor “B” should be on the paper because she was my main supervisor. In both cases, I refused to include them and published the work together with other collaborators and got the papers into high-ranking journals. However, supervisor “A” got angry with me and the good working environment was never restored.
75. After the PhD, my supervisors (“A” and “B”) published a paper introducing a new facility and all its features. It was the facility I had been using and developed during my PhD. The original idea was theirs, but I had been the main developer of many of the central features of the facility. Some facilities I had even developed against their advice because they were sure it wouldn’t work. I made it work! They didn’t invite me as a co-author of the paper. The paper included eight photographs of which I had taken six. They never asked me whether they could use the photos and they didn’t mention that I was the photographer. When I confronted them with the fact that they didn’t have the right to publish my photos, they argued that they were allowed to use them, because I took them during my PhD. This is not correct. The section leader was not backing me up, despite that the university lawyers said my case was clear. The section leader advised me not to make a big case out of it and never asked my supervisors to apologize.
76. Sharing and changing the data from my MSc course report by a professor and his PhD student. The data (input, results, designs, and pictures) ended up in a publication without any credits and part of the input data was fabricated, but my results were used with them.
77. Colleague refusing to give credits for my work on the project (experiment design, sample fabrication, testing, data revision) and essentially stealing the big part of the project. Before the draft of the paper emerged, this colleague was hiding the will to publish the work and even when directly asked about it, insisted on lying that they abandoned these results. I was a PhD at that time, that person was a postdoc.
78. A professor took data from my postdoc project and wrote the article – under big protests. Now, he is being interviewed about the project and does not mention me – I did get an acknowledgement for starting data management in an online data system and getting one million kr. for the project.
79. I have been yelled at and scolded by my leader because I don’t want to let go of my article, which I have written 90 percent of, to my female student. She wants her name first on my work and is acting hysterically. Now they are kicking me out and are calling it a “generational change”, but everyone can see that it is age discrimination and hysteria.
80. I was pushed to include co-authors that were research partners of my supervisor, although they contributed nothing to the research and writing processes, to ease their collaborations going forward.
81. I was literally told that I was expected to ‘ghost author’ one or more research papers, leading in practice but assigned only co-authorship on the written work. In both instances I informed leadership but without response, as far as I am aware.
82. Previously, as a PhD fellow, I had to include some authors on my publication, who did not fulfill authorship criteria by contributing significantly to the work. I felt though that I had to include them to maintain good relationship and hoping they’ll be willing to help develop my next project.
83. As PostDoc Fellow, I have designed a prospective study and was applying for ethical approval and introducing it to the research group. I had several colleagues, who unfortunately were not agreeing to collaborate as they were running a competing study. Moreover, they openly opposed the study roll-out in the group, despite ethics and department’s approval and other colleagues willing to participate. I have prepared a manuscript of the study protocol to publish. All authors included were those who contributed to protocol and agreed to carry the study in the group. Eventually, I was asked (by senior manager) to include the colleagues who opposed the study, as co-authors, to maintain a good working relationship and collaboration on other projects that they run together.
84. I did my research at an institution with a wellknown, kind, respected professor. Unfortunately, he assigned a younger PhD colleague to be co-supervisor. During the 1 year of research, the co-supervisor on multiple occasions presented my ideas and process to the professor as his own and before meetings with the professor, implied that he would do the talking instead of me. I emailed the professor on several occasions during the year asking for a meeting without the co-supervisor. This request was never met… When the work was to be published, the co-supervisor announced that he would do the submission. Only after it was published, I was made aware that my work was published with shared first authorship between my co-supervisor and me. This was in strong contrast with before I entered the research year, where it was made clear to me that I would be the sole first author of any published work made during the year.. Apart from us and the professor, three additional senior, male, colleagues where listed as co-authors – none of those participated in the work in my opinion. One of those was another department professor, who didn’t even know my name or that I was working on this project on several occasions…
85. In my experience, it is never with malicious intent, that advisors steal and co-opt other peoples research. From their own perspective it is always justified. My first advisor is a kind person and I consider him a friend. For all my first papers, I made the entire analysis and labored on every figure, but my advisor still took first-authorship. He told me that the results would reach a wider audience if his name was first – and of course I just wanted as many as possible to see my work.
86. In the very beginning og my PhD, I was at a supervisor-meeting. After the supervision, my supervisor asked me what I wanted to work with after the completion of my thesis. I had several years before my PhD developed a research and book project, which I wanted to apply for funding for after my PhD degree. I told him about the idea: the title, disposition, time frames etc. He lit up in excitement and stated that he would like to be a part of the project. A couple of months later I walked into his office randomly – and looked at his whiteboard. The entire project was written on the board, with the finishing note of a specific funding body. Taken aback, I pointed to the board and asked him “what is this?”. He seemed a little nervous, but decided to pretend like nothing happened and like I never told him about it. He then proceeded to say with a big smil “yes, this will be the cherry on top!”. I was speechless and though “the cherry on top of your work?”. Since then, I have come up with other and better ideas – but he is now working on my idea.
87. During my PhD, I happened to be lucky to come up with a specific idea which then got to be patented by the university. One of my co-supervisors (a senior professor) who never helped me with anything except for raising my anxiety all the time, decided to step up and, as the work was selected for an innovation award in the US, he announced that he should be the one going to “represent the university” because of the “commercial potential behind the patent”. Since my scholarship had run out at the time, I had to insist and go there on my own expenses – together with him – , and be the one presenting the work so that I would not be left out of it. Luckily, the invention received the award, the university reimbursed my expenses, but more problems started after that. After receiving the award, the university funded me to further develop the idea, which also helped to finance the rest of my PhD. During those 9 months, I asked my first supervisor and the group leader to work only with them (my co-authors), to avoid further problems with this person. A second patent was then filled with a new idea/increment two years later with only the three of us, but the work is not finished yet.
88. This situation started several years ago and has been dragged until this very day. I am currently trying to get a paper of this former PhD co-supervisor to be retracted from a respected journal. Not only is he using a prototype that I built already without him (that is protected under a patent, but the paper as not yet been finished) but he is using it wrongly. The paper has been published online recently. Just before I finished my PhD, this person who I had to include as a co-author in an article regarding the mechanism and idea of Patent#1, sent me an email with a Co-authorship Statement document to sign for his Full Professorship application at the department. To my surprise, the declaration did not mention that I was the one who had the idea, and after many successive refusals of signing the document (where this person gave many excuses like “the others have already signed”, “i prefer the text this way”, “you can make another version for your thesis where you include that extra text”) he finally changed the document. Just days after that, I needed his signature on the final PhD thesis document and he forced me to go to his office where he said “How delayed could your PhD submission be if now I also decided not to sign this?”. Last year some of his students wrote me an email about the prototype of Patent#2 that I built. And recently I found out that these students and this person published an article in a respected journal using that prototype (even using it in the wrong way!) without even citing the patent (since it is the only document publicly available). Currently waiting for an answer from the journal editor.
89. My story spans more than a decade and is initiated from the “discovery” of a natural marine phenomenon (one paper in a high-ranking journal) and the microbes causing it (a second paper published in a high-ranking journal). For both I did most of the experimental and intellectual work, but was forced by my colleagues to give up my credits and accept several guest authors (friends of the first author of the first paper). My own attempt to continue research within the field has continously been invaded or demolished, and I have several times experienced attempts to exclude my authorship from papers based on work I have initiated. Lately also with knowlegde and support from the management of our department. That even includes work based on my own funding. The striking thing about the whole story is that the general project has been supported with a very large amount of funding. Most recently through a very large grant from a specific funding body, spanning several years (I was a co-applicant on this funding proposal, but was forced out like 2 other applicants). So far virtually almost nothing of any scientific value has come out of these tax-payed money from current PIs: The publication rate is extremely low, and not well aligned with the promises given to the funding body. In fact, most of these have been implemented by other groups outside the university and outside Denmark. All this is being ignored by our management.
90. In connection to my PhD, I participated in publishing 9 articles. On one of these articles, an author is mentioned, whom I still do not know who is. I have of course googled her and can see that she is “one of Denmark’s fast-growing younger professors”, but I never met her during the creation of the article, and to my knowledge whe never contributed to the work. When I asked the other main author of the article who she was, and made it clear that I thought we should go public in the media with the case, the answer was that it was not possible since the main author’s next job depended on pleasing this professor.
91. Steal master students work without giving credit to them.
92. Writting/getting grants with PhD students’ not published idea/works/results without taking their consent before they graduate.
93. Chief physician at a hospital obtained authorship by letting us include patients in his department. He did not do anything else but allow us to ask patients at his department to participate in the study.
94. Add extra names to publication just because those people bring that technology to the lab (scratch their back and they will scratch PI’s back in the future mentality).
95. A few years ago, I was asked by my colleague to send an application for a position, where she encouraged me to include the project description we had talked about recently. Everyone knew beforehand who the position was meant for, and my boss at the time told me to not apply at all. But I was encouraged by the chair of the assessment committee herself. I applied for the position with the project I had been encouraged to apply with and was rejected. 5 months later I found out that the person in question applied for funding at a specific foundation for a project with almost the same title as the one I sent her, and got money whereas ours was rejected.
96. I have experienced a situation in which a professor took one of the papers I had written, but he had co-authored, which was in submission and under review at a prestigious journal. He submitted it at a working conference without my knowledge or consent. I was listed as the first author, but he presented it at the conference and added another co-author who had not contributed anything to the paper. Besides violating the rules of the journal submission process (i.e. you cannot submit the work elsewhere while it undergoes review) IN MY NAME, he registered this conference activity in the university research portal, which meant it showed up on my Orcid and Google Scholar accounts, again without my knowledge or consent.
97. Last, but not least, I have experienced twice in different contexts that a professor or museum director demands that her family member becomes co-author on an article, which others have written, and where she/he is not contributing. In one case, the person in question had not even read the draft before it was submitted to the journal, with the explanation that they did not have time for it and that they did not have any contributions.
98. See my professor’s name in a publication that has nothing to do with the work at the university.
99. My former colleague wrote and developed a research project so his professor could apply for funding. He was promised a postdoc as a reward on that project. But in the end, when the funds were granted, they just hired another one.
100. I was a foreign postdoc at a Danish university. Conducted research, wrote the first full draft of the research article and sent to the supervisor for comments. Instead of commenting, the supervisor removed me from my own research stating I did no work. When I protested and wrote to the section head, I was threatened. Section head (a friend of the supervisor) ignored the issue. I wrote to the named professor from the faculty, and also to department head. Supervisor threatened to ruin my career and sends three negative reference letters to potential employers where I am interviewing. I lost two jobs as a result. I wrote to the Practice committee that states that nothing wrong happened as there was no authorship agreement, so supervisor ‘taking over the research’ is within his right. Supervisor contacts my previous workplaces to threaten me (I receive messages saying black and brown people don’t belong to the white land of Europe). This is finally reported to the Rector’s office, who dismiss the case. No action against the supervisor. As a foreign postdoc, I do not have rights to stay and money to fight an expensive legal battle in Denmark.
101. Senior professor paid the open-access fee with free coupon code and wanted co-authorship in return. He/she didn’t supervise the PhD student who wrote the article and had no relation to or understanding of the topic.
102. Professor made graduate student write a scientific article based on the master thesis. In the last minute before the article was submitted for peer-review, the professor stole the work by making himself/herself first author of the article.
103. There is a silent acceptance of guest authorship, which no one at mangement level is willing to discuss. Universities make money, ranking, and prestige, and university professors make h-index and promotion. Some professors build their careers and win numerous prestigious prizes by guest authoring.
104. I had just started my PhD and had been lucky enough that an international researcher with a big name within my field had agreed to be co-supervisor number two and be on my application. It was a well-known researcher with lots of research and publications behind him; often one that was cutting-edge. I did not know this researcher personally, but my Danish supervisor had been in some contact with him in connection with conferences, and had arranged the contact. I was very happy when I started my PhD project and started out by writing a theoretically based research overview, in which I also wrote my new angle on the topic. A work, which was intended to be the ground work for a chapter of my final PhD thesis, and which was supposed to initiate my contribution to research. I sent the overview to my Danish supervisor, my first co-supervisor and to the international researcher too, even though I did not know him. Shortly thereafter, I talked to an older, tenured colleague at my university. She is from the same country and research field as the researcher in question. When my colleague heard that he was my co-supervisor and that I had sent him a draft for a chapter, she instantly warned me. She has not worked with him herself, but knows people who have written their PhDs with him, and also multiple established researchers who have collaborated with him on projects. They had all had a bad experience. She warned me that this researcher was known for taking the credit for his PhD students’ work, make himself co-author on their publications, and simply taking the ideas of the PhD students. My colleague strongly warned me against ever sending him something, I had not already published in my own name. It was a little too late; the draft was sent. Some time passed and my project progressed. I did not hear from the researcher, but did not do anything else to get in contact with him after the warning. I already had my first co-supervisor, so I managed without the researcher and almost forgot the story when I one day got an email from the site academia that the researcher in question had published a new article. The title gave me misgivings which were unfortunately confirmed when I read the article. The researcher had simply copied my angle and way of putting literature together, but rewritten my original text and added some literature. Someone from the outside would probably never think about it, but for me there was a clear connection between my chapter draft and the researcher’s new article; especially because the angle was not one he had ever concerned himself with before. As a new researcher, I felt like my first few steps of my PhD were no longer my own but had been copied and would be old news when I finished my project. My original idea had become someone else’s original idea. My Danish supervisor did not at all perceive it as seriously as me but completely agreed that the researcher should no longer be co-supervisor or have anything else to do with the project, and communicated this to the researcher. Of course an angry and puzzled answer came back, stating that I would have had good use of him as a co-supervisor and a barely disguised hint at me not being as good as I thought I was. Luckily, my project has changed a lot since then, but it was a really uncomfortable experience as a new PhD student to have your work stolen by someone who is so recognized and well-established within my research field. I have previously referred to several publications from this researcher, but am now doing everything I can to avoid it – I can’t help but wonder whose work the researcher in this and that publication copied, and who should rightly be cited instead of him. Additionally, it created a distrust in established researchers and an instinctive reservation about sharing my work before it has been published.
105. While studying for my masters I had an idea for a startup based on a protein. I was referred to a Postdoc working at a Danish university who had been gifted such protein but was no longer using it – only storing it. When I reached out and asked if I could have some of it (which I was suggested to do by the person who had initially given the protein to the Postdoc), he said I could have some of it if I promised to list him as an author if I made any publications based on the experiments I wanted to conduct with the protein.
106. I was added as co-author to a paper where I contributed very little (formatted references, checking spelling errors etc.).
107. A co-author was invited/demanded to be a part of a manuscript/study due to an earlier study which she was not a part of, but felt she should have been. Now she is a co-author without having contributed with a single second of work. The agreement was only made because the co-author threatened to ruin and stop other collaborations. She is in a prestigious department and highly respected at the university. I and others could tell hundreds of similar stories. It is a widespread problem and is commonly accepted in all levels at my university.
108. Scientific publications is the main currency within academia, and pivotal when applying for funding and political influence. Ghost authoring has become vitally important for many researchers in a publish-or-perrish culture, however it is causing rapid inflation in the value of scientific publications. More or less all of my current publications contain ghost authors, and I have ghost authored several publications myself.
109. Senior academic gives out authorships to people to please them/further collaboration even if they had not been part of the project.
110. The most recent one in Denmark involved adding the name of a co-supervisor as an author to a paper I was writing with a colleague (myself second author). When I suggested why this would be the case, this co-author not even being aware of the experiments or the paper itself until a draft was completed, I was told that it’s because she is a co-supervisor. I think that eventually she was to add comments as a formality but I still disagree. I also think that one of the other co-authors was on there for having provided lab equipment. My opposition to this was not acknowledged as being an issue.
111. Unfair authorship requests, especially last authorships for senior academics that did not significantly contribute. But generally I think it’s the fault of the system, not specific PIs, as we’re measured so much by the amount of publications we put out, which also puts senior academics under the pressure to keep collecting horrendous amounts of authorships, even though perhaps they would be more deserved by younger talents.
112. I wrote a paper with data I obtained myself in several labs, some of them not in Denmark. One of the colleagues that was included as author only provided the lab facilities. The person read through the MS before submission, but did not contribute either by discussing results in person or in any way to the manuscript. To the contrary, the person did not read the methods part and dropped a comment that would have clearly been answered in the methods. In the final stages of writing the manuscript my professor at the time added several co-authors from a foreign university to the manuscript. Most of the added co-authors had provided zero contribution to neither the work, data analysis nor manuscript proofs. In my opinion this was a clear case of gifting authorships, as my professors name was seen on many following papers published by the foreign group. I suspect this was happening systematically between both groups. This was never brought to the attention of the management.
113. People being added to papers as favors for them to improve their relationship and collaboration.
114. When I first started my PhD my supervisor wanted me to publish an article with me as first author although the research has not been done by me. My supervisor did the research himself several years ago but never published it. This was to increase my opportunity of getting funding.
115. A professor at my department is known for taking master theses and rewriting them into articles without crediting the students. No one says anything because the professor is adored by his audience.
116. The peer-review process is deeply flawed. Over time, several reviewers have asked me to reference their own publications in order to accept my submitted manuscript.
117. There is a huge problem with contract workers within universities. Oftentimes, I have experienced, that finished work is published by others due to the ending of the originators employment.
118. I have seen this more than once at faculty of science..
119. In the past 2 years I experienced 2 times in our section the following type of ghost authoring: Co-authoring papers that one has contributed very little or not at all. Perhaps the co-author has merely checked for spelling mistakes and grammar or provided laboratory facilities.
120. Senior academic has removed people as first authors and assigned it to others that were not involved in the project. Senior academic has also deleted people from the authorship list, if he thought they could not live up to finishing the manuscript in time.
PAND – PhD Association Network of Denmark would like to examine the use and experiences concerning ’ghost authoring’ at universities. We do this in order to shed light on the current work and research environment that have been continuously worsened during the last couple of decades due to several cutbacks, decreased possibilities of true democratic participation and an increasing focus on quantity instead of quality of research.
We are of the opinion that we have the power to change this structure and create a flourishing and trustful research environment with fruitful collaborations and with the room to make mistakes, think truly original, and the room to ask the right questions instead of merely coming up with the anticipated answers. However, we have to start speaking up and being honest about our working conditions. This is the only way, we can have a clear view of what changes that are needed in order to improve our conditions as a whole.
‘Ghost authoring’ is a symptom of and a phenomenon unconsciously supported by our current research culture and practice – although all universities have agreed to follow ‘codes of research integrity’ that clearly reject this kind of behavior. Ghost authoring occurs when for example a colleague takes credit for the work of another person (sometimes called “reverse plagiarism”). Even though all universities have clear rules in place regarding ethics and practice (following the Vancouver recommendations), most academics are familiar with the culture of ‘ghost authoring’ in one way or another.
‘Ghost authoring’ can occur when for example:
Many academic journals suggest that senior academics should not be included unless they “significantly” contributed to the work. Yet, this is often forgotten, for example in the close personal relationship that often exists between a PhD student and a supervisor.
Ideas do not thrive in hierarchies and distrustful environments – they thrive in equal and transparent partnerships. Now more than ever, we are in a time where we need great ideas and room for brilliant researchers that do not necessarily have sharp elbows. Therefore, we sincerely hope that you want to show your support by being honest and speaking your truth:
Crediting the campaign on ‘sexist behavior and harassment in academia’ that ran during the fall 2020, we use a similar strategy to unfold the culture of ‘ghost authoring’.
The stories below are experiences shared with us.
69. I witnessed other cases of ghost authorships in the same laboratory.