Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research
The 6th International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication held on 10-12 September 2009 in Vancouver fulfilled all expectations after a 4 year gap since the previous congress: great presentations, a fast energetic pace, and stimulating discussions combined with smooth organisation made these few days in Vancouver truly unforgettable. Reporting issues featured strongly in many presentations.
Peer Review Congress
The EQUATOR team was very busy during the whole congress promoting the importance of accurate and transparent reporting and wider use of robust reporting guidelines; we were delighted at the great interest in our stand during the whole congress.
Reporting issues featured strongly in the Peer Review Congress programme: 3 full sessions were dedicated to the quality of reporting highlighting successes to date, problems remaining and acknowledging the great amount of work ahead to make global improvements. From many great talks I would like to highlight two presentations:
Isabelle Boutron and her colleagues looked at a different side of research reporting – they set out to identify the nature and frequency of “spin” (defined as manipulation of the content and rhetoric of reporting to convince the reader that an experimental treatment is beneficial, despite a statistically nonsignificant difference in primary outcome) in published reports of randomized controlled trials with nonstatistically significant primary outcome(s). They assessed 72 ‘negative’ trials; of these more than 40% had ‘spin’ present in at least two of the three sections of the main text; 33 % of abstracts contained ‘high level’ of spin (ie. no acknowledgment of the negative primary outcome, no expression of uncertainly, and no recommendation to study the issue further in another trial).
David Moher and colleagues set out to complete a systematic review to describe health research reporting guidelines. They were slightly more specific in their definition of reporting guidelines than we are for inclusion on the EQUATOR website and stated the presence of a consensus process in the reporting guidelines development as one of the conditions of being included in the review. 76 guidelines were included in their qualitative synthesis representing a range of guidelines for reporting clinical, laboratory, and economic health research. The review demonstrates diversity in development approaches and suboptiomal reporting of the development process suggesting there is a growing need to develop an instrument to help authors, editors, and others appraise the usefulness of any reporting guideline. The development of such a tool will be informed by this systematic review and the EQUATOR Network has already initiated work in this direction.
Although we encourage journal editors to endorse reporting guidelines and require their use by authors, a cautious approach to guideline selection is recommended.
The EQUATOR Network started the congress one day earlier with a workshop on ‘Key guidelines for reporting health research studies’ aimed at journal editors. We had an excellent attendance with a number of people asking to join in at the very last moment on the day; this made the room slightly crowded but discussions much more lively. The workshop participants benefitted from all of the EQUATOR Steering group: Doug Altman, David Moher, Ken Schulz, and John Hoey, facilitating the workshop, which was a rare treat. The excellent guest speaker Christine Laine, Editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine, shared her experience of using reporting guidelines in Annals.
The workshop feedback was excellent and we thank all participants for their constructive comments which will help us to make future workshops even better.
The slides from the workshop can be accessed here.
EQUATOR 2nd Annual Lecture
Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet, electrified the room with his challenging talk ‘Redescribing medicine: reporting or reclaiming research for health?‘. Dr Horton offered a very broad perspective on current ‘international’ publishing of health research and structured his lecture around four main questions:
Is our present concept of health research correct?
Is our present concept of reporting correct?
Is our present concept of the editing correct?
What can we conclude about the future of research, reporting, and editing?
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