The supervisors of a dissertation were not found guilty of a RCR violation in an authorship dispute (TENK 2021:2)

A university’s natural sciences (biomedicine) doctoral candidate X suspected that professor A, who had supervised the dissertation, and postdoctoral researcher B had manipulated the author list of the articles by including as authors persons whose contribution was insufficient for authorship. The allegations primarily concerned four joint articles and one unpublished manuscript. X was the author of two articles and the manuscript and felt that they should also have been added to the list of authors for the other articles.

X was dissatisfied with the university’s decision that no RCR violation had taken place.

According to TENK’s guidelines, the principles concerning authorship must be agreed upon within the research project between all parties before the research is begun. The agreement must be reviewed and supplemented as the project progresses. The principal investigator or the responsible researcher of the project is responsible for the agreement.

In the RCR guidelines, manipulation of authorship is one type of irresponsible practice, and in its most serious form it can meet the criteria for a RCR violation. According to the RCR guidelines, denigrating the role of other researchers in publications can be examined as disregard for the responsible conduct of research. In order to establish an RCR violation in such a case, the actions of the researcher alleged of a violation should constitute gross negligence and carelessness in various stages of the research. However, in TENK’s view, the matter had been thoroughly investigated during the preliminary inquiry and had taken into account established practices specific to the field of science in question. For each article mentioned in the notification, the matters that had influenced the drafting of the list of authors had been sufficiently clarified and the actions of the suspects did not show such gross negligence or carelessness in the various stages of the research work that the criteria for a RCR violation would be fulfilled.