Science and Engineering Ethics 19 (2):641-651 (2013)

In medicine, professional behavior and ethics are often rule-based. We assessed whether instruction on formal criteria of authorship affected the decision of students about authorship dilemmas and whether they perceive authorship as a conventional or moral concept. A prospective non-randomized intervention study involved 203s year medical students who did (n = 107) or did not (n = 96) received a lecture on International Committee of Medical Journal editors (ICMJE) authorship criteria. Both groups had to read 3 vignettes and answer 4 questions related to the distinction between conventional and moral domains. Written justification of student’ choices whether the authorship in a vignette was right or wrong was rated by 4 independent raters as based on justice or a rule. Formal instruction had no effect on students’ decisions on authorship in the vignettes (44, 34 and 39% ICMJE-consistent answers for 3 vignettes, respectively, by students receiving instruction vs. 38, 42 and 30% for those without instruction; P > 0.161 for all vignettes). For all dilemmas, more students decided contrary to ICMJE criteria and considered their decisions to be a matter of obligation and not a choice and to be general across situations and sciences. They were willing to change their decision if a rule was different only for peer situations but not for mentor–mentee situations. The number of students who used rule-based justification of their ICMJE criteria-consistent decisions was significantly higher in the instructed than in the uninstructed group. Instruction about formal authorship criteria had no effect on student’s decisions about authorship dilemmas and their decisions were related to the moral rather than a conventional domain. Teaching about authorship and other professionalism and integrity issues may benefit from interventions that bring intuitive processes into awareness instead of those fostering rule-based reasoning
Keywords Authorship  Medical students  Moral  Social-intuitionist model  Moral domains  Moral reasoning
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DOI 10.1007/s11948-012-9358-7
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