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      Are Peer Reviewers Encouraged to Use Reporting Guidelines? A Survey of 116 Health Research Journals

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      PLoS ONE
      Public Library of Science

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          Abstract

          Background

          Pre-publication peer review of manuscripts should enhance the value of research publications to readers who may wish to utilize findings in clinical care or health policy-making. Much published research across all medical specialties is not useful, may be misleading, wasteful and even harmful. Reporting guidelines are tools that in addition to helping authors prepare better manuscripts may help peer reviewers in assessing them. We examined journals' instructions to peer reviewers to see if and how reviewers are encouraged to use them.

          Methods

          We surveyed websites of 116 journals from the McMaster list. Main outcomes were 1) identification of online instructions to peer reviewers and 2) presence or absence of key domains within instructions: on journal logistics, reviewer etiquette and addressing manuscript content (11 domains).

          Findings

          Only 41/116 journals (35%) provided online instructions. All 41 guided reviewers about the logistics of their review processes, 38 (93%) outlined standards of behaviour expected and 39 (95%) contained instruction about evaluating the manuscript content. There was great variation in explicit instruction for reviewers about how to evaluate manuscript content. Almost half of the online instructions 19/41 (46%) mentioned reporting guidelines usually as general statements suggesting they may be useful or asking whether authors had followed them rather than clear instructions about how to use them. All 19 named CONSORT for reporting randomized trials but there was little mention of CONSORT extensions. PRISMA, QUOROM (forerunner of PRISMA), STARD, STROBE and MOOSE were mentioned by several journals. No other reporting guideline was mentioned by more than two journals.

          Conclusions

          Although almost half of instructions mentioned reporting guidelines, their value in improving research publications is not being fully realised. Journals have a responsibility to support peer reviewers. We make several recommendations including wider reference to the EQUATOR Network online library ( www.equator-network.org/).

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          Most cited references40

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          Improving the quality of reports of meta-analyses of randomised controlled trials: the QUOROM statement. Quality of Reporting of Meta-analyses.

          The Quality of Reporting of Meta-analyses (QUOROM) conference was convened to address standards for improving the quality of reporting of meta-analyses of clinical randomised controlled trials (RCTs). The QUOROM group consisted of 30 clinical epidemiologists, clinicians, statisticians, editors, and researchers. In conference, the group was asked to identify items they thought should be included in a checklist of standards. Whenever possible, checklist items were guided by research evidence suggesting that failure to adhere to the item proposed could lead to biased results. A modified Delphi technique was used in assessing candidate items. The conference resulted in the QUOROM statement, a checklist, and a flow diagram. The checklist describes our preferred way to present the abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion sections of a report of a meta-analysis. It is organised into 21 headings and subheadings regarding searches, selection, validity assessment, data abstraction, study characteristics, and quantitative data synthesis, and in the results with "trial flow", study characteristics, and quantitative data synthesis; research documentation was identified for eight of the 18 items. The flow diagram provides information about both the numbers of RCTs identified, included, and excluded and the reasons for exclusion of trials. We hope this report will generate further thought about ways to improve the quality of reports of meta-analyses of RCTs and that interested readers, reviewers, researchers, and editors will use the QUOROM statement and generate ideas for its improvement.
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            The CONSORT statement: revised recommendations for improving the quality of reports of parallel-group randomised trials.

            To comprehend the results of a randomised controlled trial (RCT), readers must understand its design, conduct, analysis, and interpretation. That goal can be achieved only through total transparency from authors. Despite several decades of educational efforts, the reporting of RCTs needs improvement. Investigators and editors developed the original CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) statement to help authors improve reporting by use of a checklist and flow diagram. The revised CONSORT statement presented here incorporates new evidence and addresses some criticisms of the original statement. The checklist items pertain to the content of the Title, Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. The revised checklist includes 22 items selected because empirical evidence indicates that not reporting this information is associated with biased estimates of treatment effect, or because the information is essential to judge the reliability or relevance of the findings. We intended the flow diagram to depict the passage of participants through an RCT. The revised flow diagram depicts information from four stages of a trial (enrollment, intervention allocation, follow-up, and analysis). The diagram explicitly shows the number of participants, for each intervention group, included in the primary data analysis. Inclusion of these numbers allows the reader to judge whether the authors have done an intention-to-treat analysis. In sum, the CONSORT statement is intended to improve the reporting of an RCT, enabling readers to understand a trial's conduct and to assess the validity of its results.
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              Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals.

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                1932-6203
                2012
                27 April 2012
                : 7
                : 4
                : e35621
                Affiliations
                [1]The EQUATOR Network, Centre for Statistics in Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom
                University of Ottawa, Canada
                Author notes

                Conceived and designed the experiments: AH DGA. Performed the experiments: AH DGA. Analyzed the data: AH DGA. Wrote the paper: AH DGA.

                Article
                PONE-D-12-03064
                10.1371/journal.pone.0035621
                3338712
                22558178
                88f54faa-e7ee-40b8-af26-4b39df0f6018
                Hirst, Altman. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
                History
                : 20 January 2012
                : 21 March 2012
                Page count
                Pages: 9
                Categories
                Research Article
                Medicine
                Clinical Research Design
                Animal Models of Disease
                Clinical Trials
                Case-Control Studies
                Cohort Studies
                Cross-Sectional Studies
                Epidemiology
                Longitudinal Studies
                Meta-Analyses
                Observational Studies
                Prospective Studies
                Qualitative Studies
                Reporting Guidelines
                Retrospective Studies
                Statistical Methods
                Survey Research
                Systematic Reviews
                Non-Clinical Medicine
                Evidence-Based Medicine
                Health Services Research
                Medical Education
                Medical Ethics
                Medical Journals

                Uncategorized
                Uncategorized

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