Although I am in favour of all efforts to reduce scientific fraud, I do not feel that the proposal made in your Editorial 'Who is accountable?' (Nature 450, 1; doi:10.1038/450001a 2007) — namely, for researchers to sign a policy statement — will have any real effect.
Researchers must already navigate numerous formalities during the publication process. Signing such statements could soon become so routine that they would not give it a second thought. During investigations into scientific misconduct, these signatures would not constitute evidence of anything. We already have rules about integrity and conduct; disciplinary committees gain no leverage by pointing to additional signatures on additional declarations.
I support the push for declarations that require careful thought on the part of each co-author. Once each co-author is required to describe his or her contribution and to sign a final description of the division of labour, then it will be clear who is responsible for any particular aspect of the work. Researchers can limit their liability to fraud charges only by limiting their claim to the paper's achievements.
Only by such an active process can investigators use these declarations as meaningful statements. Given the additional benefit of recording each researcher's contribution to impact, this system might warrant the extra burden.
Readers are welcome to comment at http://blogs.nature.com/nautilus/2007/10/ accountability_of_co-authors.html
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Yager, K. Each co-author should sign to reduce risk of fraud. Nature 450, 610 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1038/450610a