- A recent systematic review revealed that incomplete reporting of interventional studies remains a widespread issue.
- The authors encourage journals to require a reporting checklist as part of the submission process.
An extensive repository of openly accessible reporting guidelines to aid complete reporting of interventional studies is available at the click of a button. However, a recent commentary published in Trials highlights that incomplete reporting remains a substantial problem.
The commentary describes a systematic synthesis of 51 randomised controlled trials reporting on 53 school-based physical activity interventions published between 2015 and 2020. Despite a growth in the availability and promotion of reporting guidelines since previous reviews were conducted, only one training programme (ie 2% of those analysed) provided complete information covering all intervention components. Even simple information, such as the intervention location, was absent from most reports.
Of the 33 journals that published articles included in the review, only one required reporting checklists for all aspects of the intervention to be submitted.
Strikingly, of the 33 journals that published articles included in the review, only one required reporting checklists for all aspects of the intervention to be submitted. Ryan et al contacted the editors of the other 32 journals suggesting that they update their submission guidelines to include mandatory submission of a reporting checklist. Twenty seven journals responded, 26% of whom welcomed the advice and amended their submission guidelines accordingly.
The authors stress that current systems, including journal submission policies, are allowing wasteful practices to continue. They ask, “how much more waste will be tolerated before action is taken?”
But, why is incomplete reporting a problem anyway?:
- Incomplete reporting impedes the readers’ interpretation of study results and prevents effective replication.
- This ultimately leads to poor outcomes for both study funders and participants.
The authors recommend a resource from the Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research (EQUATOR) Network to help spark discussion about complete reporting among researchers, editorial teams, funders, and reviewers. They also signalled a clear call to action: all journals that publish interventional research should review their submission requirements to mandate completion of reporting checklists.