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The extent of gift authorships in business journals.


The faculty at 15 AACSB accredited colleges of business who had co-authored published articles in business journals were surveyed for their views on: 1) the impact of AACSB on faculty scholarly efforts, 2) the preferred order of author listing on a published article, and 3) whether they had worked with co-authors who did not deserve an authorship position on a published work. Of the 181 respondents, 63.8% indicated that the AACSB has had a significant or very significant effect on faculty publishing efforts. Sixty seven percent (67%) responded that the author who had done the most work on a publication should be accorded the first author position on an article. Of major significance is that 41% reported working with a co-author who had performed very little work and 10.5% reported working with a co-author who had done no work on a published article.


During the past 50 years there has been a very significant increase in the level of multiple authorship in business journal articles. During the 1960's the vast majority of business journal articles were authored by a single author. By 2000 the percentages of both two authored articles and in many instances those having three or more authors per article had exceeded the percentage of sole author articles in business journals (Manton & English, 2006).

Why has this occurred? During this period university missions have evolved to incorporate a stronger commitment to research and scholarly pursuits. Also accreditation agencies have increased pressure for faculty to make scholarly contributions in their standards. With this increased pressure, faculty have also been exposed to significant increases in the expansion of knowledge within their disciplines as well as advances in technology and means to analyze data. To successfully publish an article in a business journal many faculty have had to join with other faculty who have (Schroeder, Langrehr, & Floyd, 1995):

1. knowledge in the same discipline;

2. knowledge in a related business discipline;

3. knowledge of a discipline external to business;

4. statistical or math knowledge;

5. knowledge of the computer or software;

6. knowledge of publication skills in order to successfully publish an article.

The foregoing reasons for co-authorship would most likely result in higher quality research projects. There is, however, another possibility for the high level of multiple authorship in business journal articles. This is the possibility of the existence of "gift" authorships. This would occur when an author would afford an undeserving faculty member an undeserved authorship position. The incidence of such authorships is relatively high in medical journals and the occurrence of undeserved authorships in medicine has been well documented. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors has developed guidelines for appropriately identifying authors. These are (Bennett and Taylor, 2003):

1. Substantial contribution to the conception and design of a study; or acquisition of data; or interpretation of data;

2. Drafting manuscript or critically revising it for important intellectual content;

3. Giving the final approval of the version of the manuscript to be published.

Business journals have no universal criteria for identifying the ordering of authors. There is no general definition of what is expected to identify an author and, for the most part, it is left to the authors to identify the co-authors and to list the order of their inclusion. Are the pressures to publish in business schools resulting in improper inclusion of co-authors who have contributed little or nothing to a published work?

"Gift" authorships are intellectually dishonest, deceptive, and cause dilution of credit for the research endeavor. Such activity may result in unfair and undeserved rewards from faculty performance evaluation procedures and may cause morale problems among faculty. Additionally reports to accrediting agencies concerning faculty research production would not be accurate. And finally, the academic journals would not be identifying authors correctly. With the rapid increase in co-authorships in business journal articles, the extent of undeserved authorships in business journals should be studied.


The main purpose of the study was to determine the extent of "gift" co-authorships--authorship positions which were granted to individuals who had performed either very little or no work on a published article. The reasons for co-authorships was also to be determined. In addition, the impact of AACSB-International on research endeavors of business faculty was to be determined as well as the preferred arrangement of listing co-authors on a published work.


The following research questions were sought to be answered by the current study:

1. What is the impact of the AACSB-International upon research and publication efforts?

2. What is the preferred arrangement for co-author listing on publications?

3. What are the major reasons for co-authorship arrangements?

4. What is the extent of co-authorship arrangements with co-authors who have done very little work on a published article?

5. What is the extent of co-authorship arrangements with co-authors who have done no work on a published article?


All of the AACSB accredited colleges of business were reviewed and those colleges with fewer than 100 faculty members and without a doctoral program were selected. These colleges were selected because they would have been the schools most likely to seek AACSB accreditation during the past 20 or 25 years, a period which witnessed a much stronger emphasis on faculty scholarly endeavors. Larger schools with doctoral programs would have had a strong research mission prior to this time. There were 234 such colleges. It was decided that half of the colleges would be requested to participate in the survey. The 234 colleges were arranged alphabetically and a coin was tossed to determine which of the colleges would be sent a letter requesting participation in the survey. A head would mean that the first college would be selected and all odd numbered colleges after that. With a tail, the second college and all subsequent even numbered colleges would be included. A head was observed which resulted in selecting colleges # 1 ,# 3, #5, and so forth.

A letter including copies of the letter to be sent to the faculty and a copy of the questionnaire was sent to the deans of the 117 selected colleges of business requesting their participation. The deans were asked whether they would be willing to request their faculty participation in the study. They were asked to indicate their agreement to participate or not by means of an addressed post card which they would return to the researchers. Of agreed to participate, they were asked to deliver the questionnaire, the cover letter, and an addressed return envelope to the tenured and tenure track faculty in the college through the college mail distribution system. If they agreed to participate, they were asked to indicate the number of tenured and tenure track faculty, including department chairs/heads, in the college.

The questionnaire included 15 questions which could be answered in 4 or 5 minutes. There were three demographic questions asking gender, academic rank, and whether they were tenured or tenure track. They were asked their preference for order of author names on a published article. The respondents were asked to indicate their view on the impact of the AACSB on faculty publication efforts. They were asked for the number of articles on which they were the sole author and then the number of articles on which they were a co-author. If they indicated no co-author work they were asked to stop and to return the questionnaire. The faculty involved in co-authored publications were then asked seven questions about their co-authoring arrangements. The main questions relating to the study purpose were:

1. As a co-author have you ever worked with a co-author who did very little work on a published article?

2 As a co-author have you ever worked with a co-author who did no work on a published article?


Of the 117 colleges of business only 17 returned the post card with 15 indicating they would participate. Some respondents were not the deans of the college. Each of the schools responding "yes" indicated the number of tenured and tenure track faculty at their school. That number (plus five) of cover letters with questionnaires and return envelopes were packaged and mailed to the person signing the post card.

The 15 schools indicated a total of 924 tenured and tenure track faculty. There were 185 respondents for a response rate of 20%. Due to the nature of the survey, it is felt that this represents a higher percentage of the population to be studied than indicated by this number. Since it is a study of authorship, faculty who have not published would not have participated. Also since it is a study of co-authorship, perhaps some of those faculty who have only published articles on their own may not have participated. Of the 185 respondents, 181 indicated that they had co-authored journal articles. Only four faculty indicated that they were sole authors and they did not respond further to the questions dealing with co-authorship.

Seventy-eight or 42 % of the 185 respondents were full professors. Fifty-seven (30.8%) were associate professors, while 48 (26.0%) held the rank of assistant professor.

Two respondents did not indicate their rank. One-hundred thirty or 70.3 % of the respondents reported having tenure, while fifty-three or 28.7 % indicate that they are on tenure track status.

The 185 respondents were generally representative of the recognized business disciplines--see Table 1.

Of major interest was the perceived effect of the AACSB--International on business faculty research and publication activities. Table 2 indicates the responses of all 185 faculty members. About 87% of the respondents answered that the AACSB has had an impact of faculty publishing activities, with about 64% indicating significant or very significant impact. Only 7.6% felt there was no impact on research efforts from the AACSB and 5.4% were undecided on the issue.

As previously indicated four of the respondents were authors who had not been involved in a co-authored publication. They did not respond to the questions dealing with co-authors. The first question of the 181 co-authors dealt with the preferred listing of authors on a published article. Table 3 indicates the responses. One-hundred and twenty-one or about 67% indicated that the author who had done the most work on the research effort should be listed first. The next highest arrangement selected was an "alphabetical listing" which was identified by 29 or 16%. Third was "person conceptualizing the research first" with 18 or about 10% selecting this choice.

Table 4 indicates the co-authorship team composition of the discipline or skills of the co-authors who have joined together to publish an article. An overwhelming majority--172 of the 181 (95%)--of the co-authors report co-authoring an article with someone from the same business academic discipline. One-hundred and twenty or 66.3% state that they have worked with an author from a business discipline, but one which differs from theirs. Seventy eight or 43% needed to add math skills to their research effort by adding a co-author who possessed such skills. Sixty or fully one-third of the co-authors report writing with authors who are from disciplines external to business. This reflects the AACSB efforts for interdisciplinary research endeavors on the part of business faculty. Thirty-five percent indicate that they have worked with co-authors who have research documentation and/or publication skills. Only about 23% report needed to add co-authors who have computer, software, or programming skills. These would seem to be valid reasons for co-authoring articles and should result in higher quality publications.

The primary purpose of the study was to determine the extent of undeserved co-authorships in business journals. How extensive are "guest" or "gift" authorships which are given gratuitously to undeserving authors for aid in career progression or are given as the result of authors not carrying out their responsibility on a project and not being removed for authorship? Table 5 reflects undeserved co-authorships. Seventy-four or about 41% indicated that they have worked with co-authors who have performed "very little" work on a published journal article. And 19 or 10.5% of the respondents indicated that they have co-authors identified on articles who actually performed no work.


A survey of 15 colleges of business including 924 tenure and tenure track business faculty was conducted to determine the impact of the AACSB-International on the publication efforts of faculty, the preferred arrangement of authors on journal articles, and the reasons for co-authoring an article. The main purpose of the study was to determine the level of undeserved co-authorships. Such authorships would be unethical and would represent a breach of integrity.

The majority (63.8%) of the 185 respondents indicated that the AACSB-International has had a significant impact on their publication efforts. Of these, twenty percent state that the impact of AACSB has been very significant. The form of co-authorship preferred by the majority of the respondents (64%) was that the author doing the most work should be listed first in the list of authors. A distant second was for the alphabetical listing of authors at 16%.

Most of the 181 co-author respondents (95%) report working with authors in the same business business discipline. Two-thirds state that they have worked with authors from a business discipline other than their own. More than 40% of the co-authors report needing to add a person who has mathematics or statistics skills. Over one-third of the faculty researchers indicate that they have worked with another faculty member who has significant knowledge of publication processes or research report documentation in order to get published. Another one-third of the co-authors indicate that they have worked with an author who is outside the business field.

The main purpose of the study was to determine the extent of undeserving co-authorships in business journals. "Gift" authorships are inappropriate and indeed are probably unethical. They are deemed to be a breech of integrity by the AACSB-International. An extremely high percentage (40.9%) of respondents indicated that they have worked with an author who did "very little" work on a published work. And further, over 10% indicated that they had a co-author who actually performed no work on a published article. This would seem to represent a serious indictment

of the manner which authors are identified on published business journal articles. What might be the impact of this practice? First, undeserved promotions, awards of tenure and merit pay increases may result with the adverse effects on faculty morale. Second, accreditation reports--both for regional accreditation and for AACSB accreditation would be overstated and would contain exaggerated or even fraudulent claims of faculty authorship participation. Recent standard changes of accreditation agencies call for universities to be completely accurate and honest in their reports and "gift" authorships would not reflect accurately faculty participation in scholarly endeavors. And finally, the journals themselves would not be accurately identifying the authors in their published journal articles. It would seem that journal editors would have a responsibility to accurately present to the public those who are responsible for the research work, the methodology, and the conclusions of any published work.

It would seem that college of business and universities need to address the issue of multiple authorships to assure integrity in appropriately identifying co-authors. An approach similar to that taken by the medical field would seem appropriate. A forum of college deans with representation from the AACSB-International and the editors of business journals could develop guidelines for appropriate and accurate authorship identification.


Bennett, D. M. & Taylor, Mc D. (2003). Unethical practices in authorship of scientific papers. Emergency Medicine, 15: 263-270.

Manton, E. J. & English, D. E. (2005). The growth of scholarly collaboration in business journals. Unpublished.

Schroeder, D. M., Langreh, F.W., & Floyd, S.M. (1995). Marketing journal co-authorship: Is it a hit or a miss with coauthors? Journal of Marketing Education, 17: 45-58.

Edgar J. Manton, Texas A&M University-Commerce Donald E. English, Texas A&M University-Commerce
Table 1: Academic Discipline of Respondents

Specialization N Percentage

Management(HR, O.B, P.M., Str.M.) 47 25.4
Accounting 26 14.1
Finance 21 11.4
Economics 28 15.1
Marketing 24 3.0
MIS 22 11.9
Statistics/ QM 6 3.2
Other (law, entrepreneurship, 11 5.9
 hospital management)
Total 185 100.0

Table 2: Impact of the AACSB on Research

AACSB Influence N Percentage

Very Significant 37 20.0
Significant 81 43.8
Somewhat 43 23.2
Not at all 14 7.6
Undecided 10 5.4
Total 185 100.0

Table 3: Preferred Order of Listing Co-Authors

Listing Order N Percentage

Most work first 121 66.9
Alphabetical listing 29 16.0
Person conceptualizing research first 18 9.9
Most senior member first 2 1.1
Other reasons 9 5.0
No response 2 1.1
Total 181 100.0

Table 4: Reasons for Co-Authorship

Reasons N Percentage

Co-author in the same discipline 172 95.0
Co-author-other business field 120 66.3
Specialist in math/statistics 78 43.1
Specialist in research documentation 64 35.4
Specialist in a field outside of business 60 33.1
Specialist in computer/software 41 22.7

Table 5: Undeserved Authorships

Level of work Yes % No % Response %

Very little work 74 40.9 19 10.5 106 58.6
No work 161 89.0 1 0.5 1 0.5
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Title Annotation:Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
Author:Manton, Edgar J.; English, Donald E.
Publication:Journal of Organizational Culture, Communications and Conflict
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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