Clinical trial registration and negative results
A study in BMJ tests the hypothesis that clinical trial registration should improve trial reporting and therefore increase the number of trials that do not report positive outcomes. Registered trials were slightly less likely to report positive results, particularly if they were not industry-funded. The authors did not compare the registered trial outcomes with the outcomes that were reported (they studied 1122 trials so that would have been a major undertaking). A great benefit of trial registration for editors and reviewers is being able to determine whether outcome switching has occurred. If outcomes were switched, that could explain why trial registration was not associated with a larger reduction in positive results.
Another important observation: much of the trial reporting was poor, pointing out the importance of all authors using, and all medical journals requiring and verifying use of, CONSORT reporting (http://www.consort-statement.org).
Odutayo A, Emdin CA, Hsiao AJ. Association between trial registration and positive study findings: cross sectional study (Epidemiological Study of Randomized Trials—ESORT). BMJ 2017;356:j917. doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j917
Why do researchers commit research misconduct?
A case study with a chastening message for investigators (and a sobering message for editors): “He described how and why he started tampering with data. The first time it happened he had analyzed a dataset and the results were just shy of significance. Fox noticed that if he duplicated a couple of cases and deleted a couple of cases, he could shift the p-value to below .05. And so he did. Fox recognized that the system rewarded him, and his collaborators, not for interesting research questions, or sound methodology, but for significant results. When he showed his collaborators the findings they were happy with them-and happy with Fox.” What messages are investigators sending when research doesn’t turn out as hoped? “Hindsight’s a bitch:” Colleagues dissect painful retraction. Retraction Watch (blog). March 7, 2017.
Publishing a paper withdrawn from a predatory journal
What would you do if authors submitted a paper that they had unknowingly submitted to a predatory journal, then withdrew, but the predatory journal wouldn’t respond to confirm? COPE has published a case study on such an instance.
Withdrawal of accepted manuscript from predatory journal. Case Number 16-22. COPE.
The importance of research experience when evaluating research (blog):
“So pointing out why a study is not perfect is not enough: good criticism takes into account that research always involves a trade-off between validity and practicality… good research is always a compromise between experimental rigor, practical feasibility, and ethical considerations. To be able to appreciate this as a critic, it really helps to have been actively involved in research projects. I do not mean to say that we should become less critical, but rather that we become better constructive critics if we are able to empathize with the researcher’s goals and constraints.” The value of experience in criticizing research (Rolf Zwaag Blog)
Relationship between time to reject without review, the review process, and author satisfaction
An analysis across scientific fields, the authors find “One-third of journals take more than 2 weeks for an immediate (desk) rejection and one sixth even more than 4 weeks. This suggests that besides the time reviewers take, inefficient editorial processes also play an important role. As might be expected, shorter peer review processes and those of accepted papers are rated more positively by authors. More surprising is that peer review processes in the fields linked to long processes are rated highest and those in the fields linked to short processes lowest. Hence authors’ satisfaction is apparently influenced by their expectations regarding what is common in their field. Qualitative information provided by the authors indicates that editors can enhance author satisfaction by taking an independent position vis-à-vis reviewers and by communicating well with authors.” Huisman J, Smits J. Duration and quality of the peer review process: the author’s perspective. Scientometrics (2017). doi:10.1007/s11192-017-2310-5
Reporting race/ethnicity in research
“An explanation of who classified individuals as to race, ethnicity, or both, the classifications used, and whether the options were defined by the investigator or the participant should be included in the Methods section. The reasons that race/ethnicity was assessed in the study also should be described in the Methods section. ” Robinson JK, McMichael AJ, Hernandez C. Transparent Reporting of Demographic Characteristics of Study Participants. JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(3):263-264. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.5978
What is happening with the researcher gender gap, in 12 countries?
A report from Elsevier (using Scopus): Gender in the Global Research Landscape . Analysis of research performance through a gender lens across 20 years, 12 geographies, and 27 subject areas. (2017)
and Scholarly Kitchen’s assessment: Alice Meadows. The Global Gender Gap: Research and Researchers Scholarly Kitchen Blog.
Is there a gender bias in selecting reviewers?
“Here we present evidence that women of all ages have fewer opportunities to take part in peer review. Using a large data set that includes the genders and ages of authors and reviewers from 2012 to 2015 for the journals of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), we show that women were used less as reviewers than expected…The bias is a result of authors and editors, especially male ones, suggesting women as reviewers less often, and a slightly higher decline rate among women in each age group when asked.
These findings underline the need for efforts to increase female scientists’ engagement in manuscript reviewing to help in the advancement and retention of women in science.” Lerback J, Hanson B. Journals invite too few women to referee. Nature | Comment, January 25, 2017.
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
BMJ will declare all its industry revenues, in the interest of transparency. Hear, hear! BMJ editor confirms that revenues from industry will be declared. BMJ 2015;351:h3908.
Newsletter #4, originally circulated March 16, 2017. Sources include Retraction Watch, COPE, LinkedIn, and Scholarly Kitchen. Providing the links and information does not imply WAME’s endorsement.