Context To determine the prevalence of honorary and ghost authorship in Cochrane
reviews, how authorship is assigned, and the ways in which authors and Cochrane
editorial teams contribute.
Methods Using a Web-based, self-administered survey, corresponding authors for
577 reviews published in issues 1 and 2 from 1999 of The Cochrane Library
were invited to report on the prevalence of honorary and ghost authors, contributions
by authors listed in the byline and members of Cochrane editorial teams, and
identification of methods of assigning authorship. Responses were received
for 362 reviews (63% response rate), which contained 913 authors.
Results One hundred forty-one reviews (39%) had evidence of honorary authors,
32 (9%) had evidence of ghost authors (most commonly a member of the Cochrane
editorial team), and 9 (2%) had evidence of both honorary and ghost authors.
The editorial teams contributed in a wide variety of ways to 301 reviews (83%).
Authorship was decided by the group of authors (31%) or lead author (25%)
in most reviews. Authorship order was assigned according to contribution in
most reviews (76%). The 3 functions contributed to most by those listed in
the byline were assessing the quality of included studies (83%), interpreting
data (82%), and abstracting data from included studies (77%).
Conclusions A substantial proportion of reviews had evidence of honorary and ghost
authorship. The Cochrane editorial teams contributed to most Cochrane reviews.