The CONSORT (CONsolidated Standards Of Reporting Trials) guidelines were first published 20 years ago with the aim to improve the reporting of clinical trial data. Since their introduction, the guidelines have been updated and extended, and are now endorsed by more than 600 biomedical journals. But what is the extent and nature of this endorsement? This was the subject of research conducted initially in 2003 and repeated in 2007. This month, the latest update to the study was published in an article in Trials.
Shamseer et al., examined the ‘instructions to authors’ of 168 high impact factor biomedical journals for mention of CONSORT or its extensions, and whether the guidelines were referred to as a recommendation or a requirement for submission. Mention of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) or trial registration was also sought and recorded.
Of the journals analysed, 106 (63%) mentioned the CONSORT guidelines. This was up from 38% in 2007 and 22% in 2003. In those journals that mentioned CONSORT, 44 (42%) required authors to use the guidelines, although fewer required the completion of a checklist or flow diagram for submission. Only 22 (13%) journals mentioned any of the nine CONSORT extensions published at the time of the study. In addition, the authors found that journals that referred to CONSORT were more likely to also mention ICMJE or trial registration.
The authors recognise that although the endorsement of CONSORT by high impact biomedical journals has improved over time, there is an inconsistency in the instructions provided by these journals on how to use them. The authors conclude that more can and should be done by both journals and publishers to improve compliance with the guidelines.