How To Become A Scientific Author In Poland: Delete Part Of Someone Else's Article You Think Is Wrong

from the it's-that-easy? dept

Copyrightgirl pointed us to a bizarre judgement from the Polish Supreme Court last year, which found that you can become co-author of a scientific text by deleting a few sentences that you believe to be incorrect:
The defendant wrote an article about music therapy, i.e. applying music in medical treatment. Not being a physician herself, the author had requested three colleagues to verify the article and, as a result, they suggested deleting some parts, which, in their view, were not compatible with accepted medical knowledge (they were probably right, as one of the deleted sentences considered replacing anesthesia by music during surgery, which even to devoted music lovers must sound rather extreme). The defendant initially agreed to publish the article together with her – then – colleagues as co-authors, but later changed her mind. The colleagues duly sued to have their co-authorship recognised and, in the eyes of many experts surprisingly, won in all instances, including the Supreme Court.
The trouble with this, of course, is that it leads to some ridiculous possibilities:
It also provokes the question whether all reviewers in scientific journals or university professors tutoring students, who certainly quite often (rightly or wrongly) consider certain parts of the reviewed works inaccurate or incorrect and have them deleted should not be regarded co-authors (if so, this would probably have to be the case with all university professors guiding their students through a thesis!).
It will be interesting to see what kind of cases try to build on this decision.

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Filed Under: co-authors, editing, poland


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  1. icon
    Swedish Turnip (profile), 11 Nov 2011 @ 2:57am

    “in consequence of the changes introduced by the plaintiffs, a work of a different character was created which without the plaintiffs’ contribution would have taken a different shape.”

    At a glance this judgement doesn't seem that bad but at a closer look it really does feel like it covers way more cases than it should.

    What I am more interested about on this topic though is that the author promised to publish the article together with the others. If they were helping with the paper because they had been promised co-authorship and otherwise would not previewed and offered insights on it I can't help but wonder if the one to blame in this specific case was the author herself.

    I am not that fluent in legalese and I'm very much not up-to-date on polish laws but I feel that the outcome of the court case is right but that the stated reason for the judgement is wrong.

    I would be interested in reading the court decision in full myself but my polish is a bit rusty, I doubt that it gives a blanket permission to just delete something from another work and claim co-authorship like the title implies. The implications for a student-professor interactions during the course of writing a thesis is however worrying but without reading the whole court decision it's hard to know how it will turn out.

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