Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research

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Four possible implementation routes

We offer tools and support for four major routes for implementation that cover the majority of reporting guideline policies. We strongly encourage the use of the require routes wherever possible, as these routes result in much better improvements in reporting.

There is no require route without an enforcement step. Conceptually, there is no difference between simply endorsing and requiring without enforcement. Authors receive mixed messages when journals claim to require reporting guidelines but do nothing to check whether these guidelines are actually followed. To create cultural change, we need to standardise how we talk about reporting guidelines and give authors a consistent message about what they can expect for their use.

1. Endorse reporting guidelines

Simply state that your journal supports reporting guidelines. You can raise awareness of reporting guidelines amongst your readers and authors using the steps suggested here.

2. Endorse reporting guidelines and request a checklist

State that your journal supports reporting guidelines and suggest that authors use appropriate checklists when writing and submitting. Some authors may send in their checklist; how will you use these? You could have an editorial staff member check them. You could also send them to your peer reviewers to aid in review. You can raise awareness of reporting guidelines amongst your readers, authors, and peer reviewers using the steps suggested here.

3. Require reporting guidelines, proved with a submitted checklist

State that your journal supports and requires reporting guidelines. Provide a compulsory route for authors to submit a completed checklist or an indication of which guideline they have used. Editorial staff do not accept any publication that does not address reporting guidelines in some way. You can let your readers, authors, and peer reviewers know about your policy using the steps suggested here.

There are two possible enforcement routes

1. Editorial staff confirm checklist use

You could train editorial staff to confirm that the correct reporting guideline has been used and check that it has been properly adhered to. If checklist items have not been addressed in the paper, the editorial staff can immediately return the paper for revision. You’ll find a suitable template letter here.

2. Peer reviewers confirm checklist use

You could have your editorial staff simply confirm that a reporting guideline has been used. You could then have one peer reviewer confirm that the correct reporting guideline has been used and check that it has been adhered to. If checklist items have not been addressed in the paper, peer review would stop and editorial staff can immediately return the paper for revision. You’ll find a suitable template letter here. Only once the reporting is complete do you send the paper for full peer review.

Alternatively, you could send the paper for full peer review on receipt and have all peer reviewers comment on reporting, using the reporting guideline. Improperly addressed checklist items would then be included with other requested revisions. You’ll find a suitable template letter here.