Time is a precious commodity and for many busy medical professionals the abstract of a research paper may well be the first, and only, report of a clinical trial that they read. The CONSORT for Abstracts checklist was developed as an extension of the original CONSORT statement for transparent reporting of randomised controlled trials (RCTs). By introducing a consistent and transparent approach to providing key information within the abstract, the checklist ensures that readers can quickly assess the validity and applicability of a RCT. Unfortunately, adherence to these guidelines is not consistent, as determined by a study of abstracts in high-impact general medical journals, in which overall adherence was just 67%. Mills et al have conducted a further analysis of these data and asked the question “Does professional medical writing support (PMWS) improve adherence to CONSORT for Abstracts?”.
A previous study found that, in a sample of open access journals, PMWS improved adherence to CONSORT in the reporting of RCTs. Looking specifically at CONSORT for Abstracts, Mills et al found that overall adherence was similar for studies with or without PMWS, but that disclosure of adverse events and funding was increased with PMWS and 100% adherence to inclusion of a clinical trial registration number was observed. The authors concluded that there was still room for improvement in adhering to the CONSORT for Abstracts checklist and that medical writers, authors and journals have a responsibility to work together to further improve the reporting of RCTs.