The registration of clinical trials on public platforms such as clinicaltrials.gov has become commonplace in recent years and is now a prerequisite for the publication of clinical data in many journals. This has helped to address issues such as publication bias and selective reporting of study outcomes and analyses. It also provides clinical trials with a unique trial registration number (TRN).
By capturing additional metadata about an article, including the TRN, and associating it with its digital object identifier (DOI) number, CrossRef in partnership with the Linked Reports of Clinical Trials project have, for the first time, provided a means to access all articles and documents connected to a clinical trial at a click of a button. Daniel Shanahan, associate publisher at BioMed Central, explains more in a recent blog.
Previously, clicking on the CrossMark dialogue box has allowed researchers to determine if the article they are reading is current or whether updates are available. Now, it can also bring up a list of clinical trials relating to the article being read and provide links to all other articles and documents related to the trial(s).
A single clinical trial can result in the publication of numerous scientific papers, including those reporting primary results, secondary analyses and also commentaries, editorials and systematic reviews. These may be published across a number of journals and over many years. Linking these articles to generate threaded publications will allow researchers to fully evaluate a piece of research and identify any selective reporting. It will also provide greater context for the results.
This concept is being developed further with the Open Trials Initiative, which aims to provide an open platform for finding, storing and sharing all available documents and data associated with a clinical trial. The success of both relies upon capturing as many trials and articles as possible, and the ongoing support of publishers and journals.