P.Mean: Free consultation means no co-authorship? (created 2012-03-19)

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I heard about an interaction between a client and one of the other statisticians working at the UMKC Research and Statistical Consult Service (RSCS). This statistician had mentioned the (very reasonable) expectation of getting co-authorship on any publication emanating from the consultation. Apparently this was a surprise to the client who claimed that co-authorship is inappropriate because the RSCS provides consulting for free.

I'm glad that this statistician had brought this issue up early in the consultation process. It helps avoid misunderstandings if this is mentioned at the beginning. The webpage for the RSCS mentions the following:

We would anticipate that the staff person who works on the project will be listed as one of the co-authors to the publication. http://www.med.umkc.edu/dbhi/consultation.shtml

I've actually heard the reverse, that if you are a paid consultant, you don't get to be a co-author and this is an equally bogus claim.

There has been a fair amount written on this, and anyone who makes a substantial contribution to a research paper MUST be included as a co-author. Providing assistance with the planning or analysis of a study qualifies as a substantial contribution. There are a few examples where a consulting statistician is involved only peripherally in the design and/or analysis, but this is rare. Anything more than an hour's worth of consulting would probably qualify as a substantial contribution.

It may help to note that failure to list as co-authors those people who have made a substantial contribution is a potentially a form of fraud. There have been a lot of controversial papers that were "ghost-written" by professional writers, so it is best to err on the side of including more co-authors rather than fewer.

If you, as a statistician, are included as a co-author, that also means that you must review and approve the manuscript before it is submitted. I've never had anyone leave me off as co-author inappropriately, but I have had several people who have tried to include me as a co-author without telling me first. I've always been able to catch this in time, thank goodness.

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