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Are Registered Reports living up to expectations?


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Registered Reports (RRs) – a publication format offering peer review and in-principle acceptance before research is conducted – are gaining popularity.
  • A recent study has shown RRs improve research quality versus traditional papers, without impacting innovation.

The Registered Reports (RRs) publishing format is gaining popularity, with over 300 journals now offering the option. With RRs, the first stage of peer review and in-principle acceptance occur before study outcome is known, which means that publication decisions are based on importance of the research question and methodological rigour, and are not influenced by interesting, novel, or negative results. RRs are designed to improve research quality by addressing publication bias, but only recently have they been demonstrated to reach their goal.

RRs “offer clear and tangible benefits to improving research and the research culture”.

In a recent article in Nature Human Behaviour, Dr Courtney Soderberg and colleagues presented findings from an observational investigation of perceptions of the quality and importance of RRs versus papers published using the traditional model. The authors asked 353 researchers to each peer review a pair of articles – one from 29 published RRs in psychology or neuroscience and a matched non-RR comparison paper. The articles were evaluated across 19 outcome criteria, including:

  • quality
  • rigour
  • novelty
  • creativity
  • importance of the methodology and findings.

RRs numerically outperformed standard articles across all outcome criteria. Their strongest performance advantage was in rigour of methodology and analysis, some of the key aspects of peer review. Notably, RRs were rated similarly to comparison papers in importance, novelty of research question, and creativity of methodology, which held even among reviewers who admitted to being sceptical or neutral about RRs. These results address sceptics’ concerns that the planning required for RRs could hinder innovation and promote ‘boring’ research.

The authors propose that RRs re-incentivise researchers from producing novel or positive findings towards conducting and publishing rigorous research on important questions, without impacting research creativity.

The authors propose that RRs re-incentivise researchers from producing novel or positive findings towards conducting and publishing rigorous research on important questions, without impacting research creativity. While follow-up studies are needed to assess the generality of these conclusions, RRs “offer clear and tangible benefits to improving research and the research culture”. With the benefits now shown, we look forward to seeing how the use of RRs will develop across the publishing field.

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Would you consider publishing a Registered Report?

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