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Is preregistering scientific research becoming mainstream?

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In an effort to enhance transparency and reproducibility, two-stage formats allowing preregistration of study protocols, followed by publication of the results, have increasingly become available. As clinical trial preregistration has become the norm, over 200 journals now offer Registered Reports, and it seems that more areas of scientific research are following suit.

The multidisciplinary journal PLOS ONE has recently introduced Registered Reports, a new article type that allows researchers to submit their proposed protocol before beginning their research, with the promise of publication once the results are available. Under the PLOS ONE system:

  • Authors submit a Registered Report Protocol describing the rationale, methodology and any ethical approvals required for the proposed study.
  • The protocol is peer-reviewed, to ensure scientific rigor and that the planned research meets PLOS ONE’s criteria.
  • Authors conduct their work in the knowledge that their findings will be submitted and peer reviewed for publication as a linked Registered Report Research Article.

PLOS ONE believe that the Registered Report format will ensure credibility in research communication and assessment.

Potential benefits of Registered Reports include:

  • Combatting publication bias: peer review at the end of research puts emphasis on the results, whereas the Registered Reports format allows outcome-neutral assessment solely based on research quality.
  • Improving study robustness: by enabling researchers to get feedback before conducting their experiments, the best possible study design can be developed collaboratively, and adherence to the initial protocol can later be assessed.
  • Streamlining publication: the target journal for the study results is assigned up-front, so authors don’t need to spend time approaching different journals while the data are ageing.

In addition, researchers will gain an extra peer-reviewed publication. Reviewers may also benefit if authors take up the open peer review option, publishing each article’s peer review history. With PLOS ONE reporting that researchers are eager for such formats to be made available, we look forward to hearing about the uptake of their Registered Reports initiative in this era of open science.

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Summary by Robyn Foster PhD from Aspire Scientific

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With thanks to our sponsors, Aspire Scientific Ltd and NetworkPharma Ltd


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