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“FLAE” Approach would be unfair for the medical students

Posted by pbio on 07 May 2009 at 22:15 GMT

Author: Pashtoon Murtaza Kasi
Position: M.B.,B.S. Aga Khan University
Institution: Bolan Medical College, Quetta, Pakistan.
Additional Authors: Masoom Kassi
Submitted Date: January 18, 2007
Published Date: January 18, 2007
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

Dear Editor,
We agree with the different approaches stated by Tscharntke and colleagues (1), but this still would not solve the basic dilemma faced by a researcher in a developing world of whether or not he should award authorship to an individual.

Often, in multiauthored publications, especially those from the developing world, people often do not always deserve authorship according to the stated guidelines. This is especially true when the heads of the departments are included as last authors in many of the publications. It is now so common a practice that their level of contribution is not even questioned.

Going with the “First-Last-Author-Emphasis” Norm (FLAE) would thus be unfair to the other authors in the team, who often are medical students. As can be seen, an increasingly number of medical students are performing good quality research worldwide.(2) But their level of contribution is often not given due credit.

In a study done in Germany, “medical students were among the authors of 316 (28%) and were the first authors of 88 papers (7.8%).” (3)

We would like to suggest there should be an independent board which should assess about who deserves authorship in a particular paper and the authorship order if possible. In addition, people should come forward in appreciating and encouraging the contributions of medical students.

In many studies in the developing world with medical students as part of the team, medical students are often the most overworked and are always eager to perform any work related to the study and often end up as being the ‘other’ authors of the paper. The “FLAE” approach would further take the due credit away from them and in our opinion may not be encouraged at least in our part of the world.

(1) Tscharntke T, Hochberg ME, Rand TA, Resh VH, Krauss J. Author Sequence and Credit for Contributions in Multiauthored Publications. PLoS Biology Vol. 5, No. 1, e18 doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050018.

(2) Aslam F, Shakir M, Qayyum MA. Why Medical Students Are Crucial to the Future of Research in South Asia. PLoS Medicine Vol. 2, No. 11, e322 doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0020322.

(3) Cursiefen C, Altunbas A (1998) Contribution of medical student research to the Medline-indexed publications of a German medical faculty. Med Educ 32:439–440.

No competing interests declared.