Medical publication policies and guidelines offer a framework for best practices, but there may be situations when more than one approach seems reasonable. The primary purpose of “What Would You Do?” is to explore examples of such situations. With the limited information provided to interpret the scenarios, you may find yourself agreeing with one, more than one, or none of the proposed actions. And that’s the point ‒ you should debate, contemplate, and communicate (with a comment) before selecting your “best” answer. 

Now let’s find out how you responded and read through some commentary (for context only; not meant to be comprehensive) to the below scenario:

You are a company medical publication professional. A freelance consultant statistician is paid by the sponsor to undertake complex analyses for a study. These data are to be included in a manuscript and the statistician is invited to participate as an author so that the data can be appropriately described. The statistician agrees, but requests to be compensated for the time spent contributing to the manuscript (he/she cannot afford any non-chargeable time). This is not in line with your updated company policy that states compensation for authorship is not permitted.

What Would You Do?

  1. Consult with legal as to whether an exception can be made to pay for the statistician’s time as an author and fully disclose the arrangement in the manuscript disclosures section
  2. Compensate the statistician for his/her time, but only acknowledge his/her contributions because authorship would be against company policy
  3. Transfer the work to an internal company statistician, who can take over authorship responsibilities; the freelance statistician can still be acknowledged
  4. Add the statistician as an author because it is an acceptable practice to pay fair market value for publication support, such as statistical analyses

A total of 73 respondents replied to this poll (2 did not provide a response, only a comment, and thus were not included).

In general, compensation for authorship is discouraged because there is already inherent value associated with authorship itself and payment may create the appearance of bias in favor of the sponsor. When there is a contract in place for services rendered by a statistician, payment is generally provided for the time and effort spent on deliverables, such as statistical analysis plan development, data analysis, or interpretation of results, which means compensation contributes to the fulfillment of ICMJE authorship criteria 1 [1]. The remaining steps to qualify for authorship, ICMJE criteria 2-4 [1], are typically not compensated and the statistician would generally complete those steps without payment to be an author.

On the other hand, it is also possible for a company to prespecify upfront in a contract that authorship is part of the agreement for services closely related to the development of a manuscript, and compensation may be provided for the time spent reviewing the content and generating updated outputs to revise the content. To ensure full transparency, the details of any payment that may appear to be associated with authorship needs to be disclosed to journal editors and considered for inclusion in the publication. Ultimately, the specific policy of the company in question would dictate how to proceed in this scenario, but it is best practice to not compensate for authorship. And as a final reminder, as specified in GPP3, “Payment should never be made (or offered) simply to attract someone to be an author or influence an author’s opinion” [2].

Eric Y. Wong, PhD, MBA, ISMPP CMPPTM, Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC

This article was prepared by the author in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed within are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC.


  1. Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals (updated December 2019):
  2. Good Publication Practice for Communicating Company-Sponsored Medical Research: GPP3: Ann Intern Med. 2015 Sep 15;163(6):461-4. doi: 10.7326/M15-0288.
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