We are responding to the recent article by Hirsch1 and in particular to his statements regarding Neurology's authorship policy.
The ICMJE's (International Committee of Medical Journal Editors) definition of authorship2 appears in the Instructions for Authors of most journals. Hirsch contends that all authors, as defined by the ICMJE criteria, meet rigorous standards and are intimately familiar with the work. However, those listed in the byline are often “qualified” because they contributed only in 1 or 2 of the listed criteria, whereas others who fulfill none of the criteria are included because they obtained funding or generally supervised the research.
Hirsch misrepresented the importance of the intellectual contribution of first drafts of manuscripts. A common industry practice is to use a professional writer to generate a first draft of a manuscript to facilitate the engagement of a “guest” academic author. Although there may be instances when a first draft by a professional writer is revised beyond recognition by the academic and scientific coauthors, it seems self-evident that a first draft of a manuscript generally serves as the intellectual framework of all subsequent revisions and modifications. We at Neurology think that the author of the first draft of a manuscript should be recognized. At Neurology, we have created another definition of authorship, one that is just as rigorous but more transparent, so that readers are in a better position to judge the work:
“Neurology defines an author as a person who has made a substantive intellectual contribution to the submitted manuscript. A substantive contribution includes one or more of the following: design or conceptualization of the study; OR analysis or interpretation of the data: OR drafting or revising the manuscript for intellectual content. Professional writers employed by pharmaceutical companies or other academic, governmental, or commercial entities who have drafted or revised the intellectual content of the paper must be included as authors.”3
Each person involved in the study, whether funded by industry or not, must disclose his or her contribution in an online form, including anyone who has written the first draft or has responded substantively to reviewers' comments; therefore, we eliminate ghostwriters and guest authors. We opted for transparency based on the assumption that even a major contribution to a study does not necessarily imply that one's knowledge is sufficient to communicate or defend the entire work. Nevertheless, such contributions should be attributed; certainly, many (technicians, graduate students, or writers who have set the tone and direction of the study or of the paper, even though it may be heavily revised subsequently) deserve such recognition with an accurately stated description of the contributions to the paper. Hirsch's desire to cover up the work of professional writers is disingenuous. We at Neurology believe that our readers deserve to know who contributed to the intellectual content of studies and the resulting manuscripts.