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COMPare: a prospective cohort study correcting and monitoring 58 misreported trials in real time
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Discrepancies between pre-specified and reported outcomes are an important source of bias in trials. Despite legislation, guidelines and public commitments on correct reporting from journals, outcome misreporting continues to be prevalent. We aimed to document the extent of misreporting, establish whether it was possible to publish correction letters on all misreported trials as they were published, and monitor responses from editors and trialists to understand why outcome misreporting persists despite public commitments to address it. Methods We identified five high-impact journals endorsing Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) (New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association, British Medical Journal, and Annals of Internal Medicine) and assessed all trials over a six-week period to identify every correctly and incorrectly reported outcome, comparing published reports against published protocols or registry entries, using CONSORT as the gold standard. A correction letter describing all discrepancies was submitted to the journal for all misreported trials, and detailed coding sheets were shared publicly. The proportion of letters published and delay to publication were assessed over 12 months of follow-up. Correspondence received from journals and authors was documented and themes were extracted. Results Sixty-seven trials were assessed in total. Outcome reporting was poor overall and there was wide variation between journals on pre-specified primary outcomes (mean 76% correctly reported, journal range 25–96%), secondary outcomes (mean 55%, range 31–72%), and number of undeclared additional outcomes per trial (mean 5.4, range 2.9–8.3). Fifty-eight trials had discrepancies requiring a correction letter (87%, journal range 67–100%). Twenty-three letters were published (40%) with extensive variation between journals (range 0–100%). Where letters were published, there were delays (median 99 days, range 0–257 days). Twenty-nine studies had a pre-trial protocol publicly available (43%, range 0–86%). Qualitative analysis demonstrated extensive misunderstandings among journal editors about correct outcome reporting and CONSORT. Some journals did not engage positively when provided correspondence that identified misreporting; we identified possible breaches of ethics and publishing guidelines. Conclusions All five journals were listed as endorsing CONSORT, but all exhibited extensive breaches of this guidance, and most rejected correction letters documenting shortcomings. Readers are likely to be misled by this discrepancy. We discuss the advantages of prospective methodology research sharing all data openly and pro-actively in real time as feedback on critiqued studies. This is the first empirical study of major academic journals’ willingness to publish a cohort of comparable and objective correction letters on misreported high-impact studies. Suggested improvements include changes to correspondence processes at journals, alternatives for indexed post-publication peer review, changes to CONSORT’s mechanisms for enforcement, and novel strategies for research on methods and reporting.

Subject:
Health, Medicine and Nursing
Material Type:
Reading
Provider:
Trials
Author:
Aaron Dale
Anna Powell-Smith
Ben Goldacre
Carl Heneghan
Cicely Marston
Eirion Slade
Henry Drysdale
Ioan Milosevic
Kamal R. Mahtani
Philip Hartley
Date Added:
08/07/2020
Update on the endorsement of CONSORT by high impact factor journals: a survey of journal “Instructions to Authors” in 2014
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The CONsolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) Statement provides a minimum standard set of items to be reported in published clinical trials; it has received widespread recognition within the biomedical publishing community. This research aims to provide an update on the endorsement of CONSORT by high impact medical journals. Methods We performed a cross-sectional examination of the online “Instructions to Authors” of 168 high impact factor (2012) biomedical journals between July and December 2014. We assessed whether the text of the “Instructions to Authors” mentioned the CONSORT Statement and any CONSORT extensions, and we quantified the extent and nature of the journals’ endorsements of these. These data were described by frequencies. We also determined whether journals mentioned trial registration and the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE; other than in regards to trial registration) and whether either of these was associated with CONSORT endorsement (relative risk and 95 % confidence interval). We compared our findings to the two previous iterations of this survey (in 2003 and 2007). We also identified the publishers of the included journals. Results Sixty-three percent (106/168) of the included journals mentioned CONSORT in their “Instructions to Authors.” Forty-four endorsers (42 %) explicitly stated that authors “must” use CONSORT to prepare their trial manuscript, 38 % required an accompanying completed CONSORT checklist as a condition of submission, and 39 % explicitly requested the inclusion of a flow diagram with the submission. CONSORT extensions were endorsed by very few journals. One hundred and thirty journals (77 %) mentioned ICMJE, and 106 (63 %) mentioned trial registration. Conclusions The endorsement of CONSORT by high impact journals has increased over time; however, specific instructions on how CONSORT should be used by authors are inconsistent across journals and publishers. Publishers and journals should encourage authors to use CONSORT and set clear expectations for authors about compliance with CONSORT.

Subject:
Health, Medicine and Nursing
Material Type:
Reading
Provider:
Trials
Author:
David Moher
Douglas G. Altman
Kenneth F. Schulz
Larissa Shamseer
Sally Hopewell
Date Added:
08/07/2020