#PleaseDontStealMyWork – Ghost Authoring at Danish Universities


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:

  • Co-authoring papers that one has contributed very little or not at all to. Perhaps the co-author has merely checked for spelling mistakes and grammar or provided laboratory facilities.
  • Rewriting master theses into articles without crediting the master student.
  • Simply stealing theoretical ideas or arguments without crediting the originator.
  • Senior academic applying for funds for a project that younger colleagues had developed for themselves to work on.
  • Using data without the knowledge, or the right acknowledgment of the person who collected the data.

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 would like to use a similar strategy to unfold the culture of ‘ghost authoring’. Therefore, we would kindly ask you to share your experiences with us by either:

  1. Indicating with your signature that you have been witness to the experiences of others, and/or
  2. Offering specific, but anonymous, examples of such experiences. Please also note how and if the management handled these experiences.

If you recognize the problem of ‘ghost authoring’ either by having been WITNESS to the experience of others or have experienced this behavior yourself, you can help to bring this culture to light and hopefully create a better research environment by filling out this form. After 7 days (approximately on the 5th of April 2022), we will publicly share the collection of signatures and stories in the media. All examples shared will be anonymous. You are welcome to also note at which university and faculty this was experienced. These geographical details will not be made public.

You find the link to the HERE.