The Council of Science Editors recently made available on their Web site selected presentations from their 2010 Annual Meeting. I was particularly interested in the presentation from Devora Krischer, ELS, on “Banishing the Ghost: Examining the Role of Science Writers.” The controversy over ghostwriting impacts what I do every day – in most cases, I provide substantial editing and critique of scientific manuscript content, including research design, figure quality, and construction/messaging.
First, some definitions from AMWA:
“Ghost authoring” refers to making substantial contributions without being identified as an author. “Guest authoring” refers to being named as an author without having made substantial contributions. “Ghostwriting” refers to assisting in presenting the author’s work without being acknowledged. The term “ghostwriting” is often used to encompass all three of these practices.
I guess what I do falls under “ghostwriting” because I assist authors in producing a manuscript that is ready for submission to a journal.
According to AMWA’s “Position Statement on the Contributions of Medical Writers to Scientific Publications:”
Biomedical communicators who contribute substantially to the writing or editing of a manuscript should be acknowledged with their permission and with disclosure of any pertinent professional or financial relationships.
Individual journals may or may not have their own policies in place regarding the disclosure of the contributions of a manuscript editor. Typically, I leave the decision of whether or not to acknowledge my contribution in the hands of the manuscript authors. Yet many authors may be unaware of the ongoing controversy about acknowledging manuscript editors, or if their selected journal even has a specific policy.
I found Ms. Krischer’s presentation very helpful in that it emphasized the overarching goal of transparency when making decisions about disclosing the work of outside contributors. She also gave specific guidance on what types of support should be acknowledged, a sample disclosure form, and sample acknowledgement sections.
I doubt this will change my personal policy of leaving the decision up to the author. But acknowledgements are always welcome and highly appreciated, of course!