Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research

ANNUAL LECTURE 2013: Presented by Prof Kay Dickersin


The 5th EQUATOR Annual Lecture was presented by Professor Kay Dickersin, Professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Director of the Center for Clinical Trials, and Director of the US Cochrane Center (USCC).

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing? Limitations of Reporting Guidelines in Revealing Study Methods

Date: Monday 9 September 2013, 17:30 – 18:30
Venue: Swissotel, Chicago, USA (Peer Review Congress venue)

Lecture outline:

It is accepted that good reporting does not ensure that a study was conducted in a methodologically sound manner, and vice versa.  Indeed, reporting guidelines cannot influence those studies where no report is published at all. Until recently, we have had limited means of assessing whether a study is methodologically sound, other than depending on what is reported in the literature. In a perfect world, a clear report allows weaknesses to be detected – they are visible, not hidden. Yet knowing what is wanted by a journal or the scientific community could also lead to misreporting, either deliberately or by a lack of understanding of what is being asked for (eg, lack of understanding the concept of allocation concealment).  How best to address this issue is not clear. Making study protocols accessible is a first step but does not allow for assessment of the manner in which the research was actually conducted. In addition, is it practical to subject every study to rigorous methodological review?  And who is responsible? With the current trajectory towards open access to study data and information, and the creation of the SPIRIT Statement, a new era of reporting standards is evolving, one that goes beyond guidelines for journal reporting to making clear a study’s methodological details. The issue we must grapple with as a community is agreeing on a balance between scientific trust and scientific accountability.

Short biography:

KAY DICKERSIN, M.A., Ph. D. is Director of the U.S. Cochrane Center and Professor of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she serves as the Director of the Center for Clinical Trials.

Kay’s main research contributions have been in clinical trials, systematic reviews, reporting biases, trials registers, and the development and utilization of methods for the evaluation of health care and its effectiveness. She has led and participated in research on reporting biases since the 1980s, most recently examining internal company documents related to the drug gabapentin and comparing the documents to the published record. She has been active in efforts to register trials, including coordination for 12 years of the Cochrane Collaboration’s CENTRAL register of reports of controlled trials, and serving as Co-Chair of the WHO’s Scientific Advisory Group for the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform. Kay has contributed to SPIRIT, PRISMA, and CONSORT for Abstracts. She has also been actively engaged in teaching, including developing courses on evidence-based healthcare, epidemiology, peer review, clinical trials and systematic reviews. Among her honors, Kay is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine in the United States.

Kay received a Master’s degree in zoology, specializing in cell biology, from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Hygiene and Public Health.


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