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The Vancouver Protocol1 (www.icmje.org) provides clear criteria for authorship and the acknowledgment of contributions to scientific publications. However, contributors to health surveillance research, who make such research possible by the identification of cases and the provision of clinical data, have questioned the applicability of these criteria.
The International Network of Paediatric Surveillance Units (INoPSU)2 (www.inopsu.com) is an international association now including 14 national paediatric surveillance units (PSUs) that conduct active surveillance of a range of uncommon conditions of childhood, including infectious and vaccine preventable diseases, childhood injury, and genetic and mental health conditions. Over 7000 child health specialists, many of whom report on behalf of their colleagues or departments, contribute cases to the PSUs on a monthly basis. The population covered is approximately 54 million children under 15 years of age.
Clinicians who report a case to a PSU are asked to provide additional clinical and demographic details to study investigators. Some surveillance studies have significant workload implications for individual clinicians. Although most clinicians will not see a child in any one month with one of the rare conditions under surveillance, a high return rate of the “nil to report” response underpins the quality of the PSU active surveillance mechanism.
At the 3rd meeting of INoPSU in Lisbon in April 2004, the following guidelines on authorship and acknowledgment were proposed for recommendation to investigators conducting epidemiological research through the PSUs:
To qualify for authorship on reports, individuals must fulfil the Vancouver criteria. However, in acknowledgment of their essential contribution to the work, the addition of the statement “on behalf of contributors to the (national PSU)” following the final author’s name is encouraged.
Investigating teams are encouraged to consider inviting clinicians who have contributed significant data (through notifying cases) onto the study team. These clinicians may have expertise relevant to the analysis or reporting process. Report authorship may then be assigned if appropriate according to the Vancouver Protocol.
Report authors should consider naming clinicians who have contributed significant data in the acknowledgments section of the report, according to the Vancouver Protocol.3,4 Report authors are reminded that the Vancouver Protocol requires that permission must be sought to acknowledge individual clinicians by name.
INoPSU member units will provide these guidelines and a copy of the current version of the Vancouver Protocol to each investigating team conducting research through the PSUs, preferably prior to the commencement of the surveillance study. These recommendations may also be applicable to the reporting of other research requiring the provision of clinical data from multiple contributors apart from the study authors.
Competing interests: none declared