Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research

ACCORD is launched: a new reporting guideline to support health researchers to report consensus methods


ACCORD (ACcurate COnsensus Reporting Document) was published this week in PLOS Medicine. The tool will help the scientific community to write complete and transparent research reports involving consensus methods.

When is consensus used?

Science doesn’t always have the answers for all health problems. Sometimes, good quality research is not available to help patients and clinicians make decisions. In these situations, researchers often formally seek the perspectives and opinions of experts (knowledge and professional training) and people with lived experience of the health issue in question (patients, carers, taxpayers). This is called consensus methods research.

What is important to know about consensus initiatives?

Consensus research is particularly important when evidence is newly emerging, inconsistent, limited, or absent. In biomedical research, consensus is often sought among individuals with different views and experiences when developing clinical recommendations, setting priorities, and making policy decisions. The people who are invited to participate, how the consensus process is conducted, how individuals could express themselves, and conflicts of interest can all make a lot of difference to the final result. The way that researchers conduct consensus exercises and involve participants are not always reported clearly or in enough detail in research publications.

Why develop ACCORD?

ACCORD was developed to address these historical problems of poor and incomplete reporting of consensus exercises. The tool was developed to be the first to be applicable across all consensus methodologies — not only the most widely known and used, Delphi.

What are the next steps?

The ACCORD developers hope that the publication will help scientists, medical writers, and editors to publish complete health research reports of projects involving consensus. The first step will be to raise awareness of this easy-to-use tool: Patricia Logullo said, “We want to see journal editors and publishers including or signposting to ACCORD in their instructions for authors, and publication professionals using it when writing up Delphi and other consensus-based approaches.”

To help implementation, another document will be published soon: the “explanation and elaboration” (E&E) document, led by Patricia. The article will explain in detail why it is so important to report each item of the ACCORD checklist. It also provides real examples from the literature to illustrate how to report each checklist item. “We will show how easy it is to write a complete report and give alternatives to bypass the word count limits imposed by journals” anticipates Patricia. The E&E is also under review by PLOS Medicine.


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