Biomedical Journals Lay Down Some Transparency Markers

Both Nature and Science are noting in their latest issues the results of a June conference they co-convened with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  At that conference, editors from over 30 journals, along with other scientific leaders in biomedical fields, met to discuss principles and guidance for reporting pre-clinical research.

A proposed list of principles and guidance were developed at the conference.  While the emphasis is on biomedical research, the principles strike me as generalizable to other fields of research.  I’ve summarized them below:

  • Rigorous statistical analysis – checked by the journal and policies disclosed in information for authors
  • Transparency in reporting – use a checklist to ensure reporting relevant methodological and analytical information to reviewers and readers.  Have ample space for methods sections, either in print or online.  Establish a clear set of reporting standards, which would include statistics, randomization, replication, presence of blinds, estimation of sample size, and inclusion/exclusion criteria.
  • Data and material sharing – All datasets should be made available on request during manuscript review, and based on reasonable request following publication.  Datasets should be placed in public repositories when possible, and in machine readable format
  • Refutations – Journals should have a policy assuming responsibility to consider publishing refutations of papers it has published.
  • Best Practice Guidelines – Journals should consider such guidelines for image based data, and descriptions of biological material (sufficient to uniquely identify source and relevant data)

May I suggest that if you are considering a journal for publication, that you see how many of these guidelines (or their discipline-appropriate equivalents) the journal follow?



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