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Dermatopathology: Practical & Conceptual July - September 2003
What ever happened to BANS—and why?
A. Bernard Ackerman, M.D.
Naghmeh Yousefzadeh, M.D.
The history of BANS as conveyed through synopses of publications about it
Addendum 1 (The American Journal of Dermatopathology 1982 Oct;4(5):387–9.)
The dermatopathologist sine al.
Dr, Ackerman makes two principal points in his editorial, "The computer
He bemoans the multi-authored scientific papers which are appearing with greater frequency in the recent literature and the lack of originality of computers.
There is no need to defend the use of the computer as a tool in research that requires analysis of large blocks of numerical and other types of data, any more than it is necessary to defend the microscope as a tool in research in pathology. Both computers and microscopes have no ability to "think" on their own or to interpret the information they help to elucidate.
However, the originality of a paper, the inherent worth of the material that is being put forth, has nothing to do with whether a computer or a microscope has been used. Rather, a paper's contribution to the literature should be measured by whether the point that is being presented is valid, and whether it is supported by adequate data, not speculation. In other words, it is the validity of the authors' findings, and the authors' ability to interpret the data that is provided by the ancillary research tools, that should determine a paper's worth.
In some ways we share Ackerman's view that papers ostensibly written by many authors lead to confusion about who were the originators of the concepts, who made the findings, and who made the interpretations enunciated in them. In the past few decades, medical science has made enormous strides in technology, methodology of study, and evaluation of findings. Thus, teams consisting of cooperative experts in several disciplines are often required to conduct many present-day studies. Most physicians simply do not have the knowledge, time, and skills to carry out all tasks of many of the complex scientific studies in progress these days. Moreover, statistical mathematics is an ever-expanding science. Thoughtful people handling scientific data are naturally desirous of applying accurately the most advanced methodology.
In many instances, a team that is necessary to formulate the final draft of a scientific paper is not at first precisely definable. In initial phases, it may be an amorphous concept that has to be refined slowly by a concerted effort of many participants. Thus, a team comes into being as a project evolves. In other instances, the need for multidisciplinary experts is evident from the start and for that reason so-called "study groups," "cooperative groups," "sections," etc., are formed to pursue certain investigations. When it comes to publishing the results of such team efforts, it is only natural for considerate leaders to want to give credit to everyone who contributed substantially to the work. Clearly, as is so true in many aspects of life, some shoulder a much greater portion of the work load than others. This makes if difficult to judge the precise amount of credit that is due a particular participant on the project. What harm is there in being generous about citation of persons whose contributions may have been small but nevertheless used? In fact, in the section on "Original Articles" published in the two most recent issues of the prestigious
New England Journal of Medicine (
July 15 and July 22, 1982), we note that there are five papers. These five articles have a total of 41 authors, an average of 8.2 contributors per article.
Having been in the position of Chairman of the Melanoma Cooperative Group at New York University School of Medicine, one of us (AWK) has been quite aware of the complexities of managing such s group and of the problem of authorship of the papers generated by their combined efforts. The only method he has found to be equitable was to allow each member of the Group the opportunity to contribute to each article and, if he so desired, to be listed in the authorship. In our opinion, this is the fair way to manage such a team. We found that those who wished citation in the authorship deserved that recognition.
We imagine there are some who take advantage of colleagues by using work done by the latter and not giving them proper credit. Indeed, as pointed out by Dr. Ackerman, to be truly fair perhaps those who significantly help in editing manuscripts, preparing visuals, giving critical guidance, etc., should be recognized as coauthors of the concepts put forth and conclusions reached in scientific endeavors.
Are we not proud of the 56 signatures that appear on the Declaration of Independence although the document was drafted largely by one man, Thomas Jefferson? Certainly, the large number of signatories does not detract from the validity of the Declaration. In the last analysis, this multi-authored statement set the stage for freedom of expression in the United States, which even permits contrary views to be expressed in editorials such as this.
Alfred W. Kopf, MD, Darrell S. Rigel, MD
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