The use of core outcome sets (COS) ensures that researchers measure and report those outcomes that are most likely to be relevant to users of their research. Several hundred COS projects have been systematically identified to date, but there has been no formal quality assessment of these studies. The Core Outcome Set-STAndards for Development (COS-STAD) project aimed to identify minimum standards for the design of a COS study agreed upon by an international group, while other specific guidance exists for the final reporting of COS development studies (Core Outcome Set-STAndards for Reporting [COS-STAR]).
An international group of experienced COS developers, methodologists, journal editors, potential users of COS (clinical trialists, systematic reviewers, and clinical guideline developers), and patient representatives produced the COS-STAD recommendations to help improve the quality of COS development and support the assessment of whether a COS had been developed using a reasonable approach. An open survey of experts generated an initial list of items, which was refined by a 2-round Delphi survey involving nearly 250 participants representing key stakeholder groups. Participants assigned importance ratings for each item using a 1–9 scale. Consensus that an item should be included in the set of minimum standards was defined as at least 70% of the voting participants from each stakeholder group providing a score between 7 and 9. The Delphi survey was followed by a consensus discussion with the study management group representing multiple stakeholder groups. COS-STAD contains 11 minimum standards that are the minimum design recommendations for all COS development projects. The recommendations focus on 3 key domains: the scope, the stakeholders, and the consensus process.
Paula Williamson and colleagues report on the core outcome set standards for development that researchers should use for improving reporting of their research.