One issue that keeps coming up in the infamous case of Amy Bishop is, “Why did she add her children as authors on her research papers?” I was an academic before 20+ years, in the marketing department of business schools, before retiring early. Here’s my interpretation of events.
Whether the kids contributed or not isn’t the point. In academic papers, the definition of authorship can be a blurry one. it’s not uncommon to add additional names to the author list as a courtesy.
Thesis directors often are added to articles published by their students, even though the articles were substantially changed since the dissertation. Sometimes grad students add names of their major professors and other influentials because they believe it’s expected if they want to get good recommendations. Sometimes these expectations are accurate.
It’s not uncommon for grad students to ghost articles for professors. Junior profs often are pressured to add names of senior profs in their department. And it’s not unheard of for said senior professors to hint that they want their names added if the junior professor expects to get rewards, including tenure.
It’s quite common for articles to include names of colleagues who did nothing more than collect a good data set. I’ve seen researhers add names of managers of businesses who helped them get access to the data. Sure, data is critical and sometimes data collection does call for research skills. But sometimes it’s a matter of translating the questions into another language and handing out questionnaires…or just handing out questionnaires.
On the other hand, senior professors and thesis directors sometimes add names of junior colleagues, graduate studentes or research assistants just to help tthem out. Were “personal” favors granted in return for getting a name added to a publication by a Famous Authority? I’ve heard an occasional rumor but suspect the actual practice was quite rare. More likely, professors felt they wanted to reward a promising student or overworked, underpaid assistant.
So I could see where a professor might add kids’ names without thinking it was a big deal. Humorous notes in acknowledgments are not unheard of. In one prestigious marketing journal, an author acknowledged her dogs and cats by their painfully cute names; true, it was just in the “acknowledgments” section and the article did relate to “companion animals.” It’s a small step from their to listing underaged research assistants.