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Cochrane Skin Group

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The Cochrane Skin Group is part of a larger international endeavour, The Cochrane Collaboration, with the aim of preparing, maintaining and promoting the accessibility of systematic reviews of the effects of health care interventions. The Collaboration is organised into different subject areas and fields, and is supported by national centres. Systematic reviews are of interest to health care providers, consumers, researchers, and other groups.  

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On Little Red Hens and authors

Now and again, I come across that unsavoury aspect of publication called honorary (or passenger) authorship, i.e. senior colleagues adding their names to papers simply on the grounds that they are senior and have allowed their juniors to do the work in their department. It is human nature, and it reminds me of the story of the Little Red Hen, which is as true in adult life as it is in the nursery rhyme. You can find a wonderful 3-minute recording of it in YouTube by Pie Corbett here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdvJZD-cplg. Previous research in 2002 (Mowatt G et alJAMA.2002;287(21):2769-2771) has shown that honorary and ghost authorship might have occurred in around 40% of Cochrane reviews, but I suspect that figure is a lot less now. But it still goes on, especially for junior lead reviewers who are not in a strong position to challenge senior colleagues who do very little. Perhaps that may apply to me one day, so juniors, please don’t be afraid to question my contribution on Cochrane reviews and to simply acknowledge me rather than include me as an author if I have not done very much. I don’t want to stir up a revolution here, as it needs to be appreciated that different people bring different skills to a review. The fact remains that a small part of the team does most of the hard graft on a review in selecting studies, abstracting data and drafting the basic text. But sometimes, having a content expert on board in very helpful in order to ensure that the context and conclusions are sound.

I do hope that we don’t have any Little Red Hens in our skin group. It is very much for Cochrane teams to sort out any within-team disputes about authorship amicably and sensibly, but if you need any guidance, Cochrane advice – found in section 4.2.2  Authors  of the Handbook – is very clear: ‘Ideally, the order of authors should relate to their relative contributions to the review. The person who contributed most should be listed first.’

Hywel Williams

Co-ordinating Editor and Cockerel-in-Chief


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The Cochrane Skin Group is a network of people from all over the world committed to producing and updating reviews of trials relating to skin conditions. The process begins with individuals getting together with an important clinical question. They then search for all the relevant published and unpublished trial information, critically appraise it, and summarise that information in such a way that can be understood by health care practitioners, consumers and managers. The aim of the Cochrane Skin Group is simply to produce the best possible evidence on the effectiveness of health care interventions for people with skin problems.

The scope of the Skin Group is wide, and includes any skin problem that leads an individual to seek help from a health care provider. The Group also considers evidence about skin treatments that are sold overthe-counter or are widely available.

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Cochrane Skin Group, Centre of Evidence Based Dermatology, Room A103, King's Meadow Campus, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom. NG7 2NR

This web site is maintained by Laura Prescott.

Page last updated: Thu 7th Aug 2014 18:24:09 CEST

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