Intended for healthcare professionals

BMJ research in progress

Peer review

Comparison of submitted and published reports of randomised trials

Doug Altman, John Ioannidis, David Moher, Jill Mollison, David Schriger, Sara Schroter

Published articles describing randomised controlled trials have reported widespread deficiencies in both study methodology and reporting. Important discrepancies have been found between trial protocols and details given in subsequently published journal articles. It is unknown whether the publication process increases or decreases such deficiencies and discrepancies. The objective of this study is to characterise differences between reports of randomised controlled trials as originally submitted to The BMJ and as published.

Current status: Study in progress. Abstract presented at the Fifth International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, Chicago, USA, September 2005.

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Publication bias

Submitted but unpublished trials: an empirical evaluation

John Ioannidis, Sara Schroter, Doug Altman

There is considerable evidence that some randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are never published or are published with great delay. Publication bias is considered to depend mostly on the fact that investigators may never submit their RCT for publication, and this may be more likely for trials with “negative” results. However, there is more debate and less evidence on whether RCTs may still remain unpublished even though their investigators make an attempt to publish them and do submit them for peer-review and publication. To answer this question, we are studying a cohort of RCTs that were submitted for publication to The BMJ between 1998 and 2001 and examining whether any of them remain unpublished after a long period of time.

Current status: Study in progress. Abstract accepted for presentation at the Sixth International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, 2009.

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Quality of descriptions of treatments: A review of published randomised controlled trials

Paul Glasziou, Carl Heneghan, Sara Schroter

The Centre of Evidence Based Medicine in Oxford (CEBM) is collaborating with The BMJ on a project to improve the reporting quality of descriptions of treatments in interventions. To be useable in clinical practice, the treatments studied in trials and reviews must provide sufficient information to allow others to replicate the treatment. The objectives of this study were to assess (i) the quality of descriptions of treatments in randomised controlled trials published in The BMJ in 2006 using a checklist and (ii) to determine the extent to which peer reviewers and editors commented on the quality of reporting of treatments during the review process.

Current status: Paper in preparation.

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Papers audit

Evaluating the impact of The BMJ research articles

Sara Schroter

This is an ongoing audit of all research articles published in The BMJ since 2005. We want our research papers to be scientifically valid, highly visible, widely read, frequently cited, clinically relevant and of interest to our international readers. As such we collect a series of indicators for our papers to see if we are achieving our objectives:

  • Citations over time
  • Page impressions in first week of publication (full text + PDF)
  • Total online accesses in first 2 months of publication (all accesses: Online Firsts, abstracts, full text, PDF)
  • Total online accesses in first 12 months after publication (all accesses: Online Firsts, abstracts, full text, PDF)
  • Rapid responses in first 12 months of publication
  • Pickups in secondary sources: BMJ Updates, Journal Watch (General Medicine), Evidence Based Medicine Journals, ACP Journal Club, Faculty 1000 Medicine

Current status: Ongoing. A news story was published describing the 2005 papers audit.

See also BMJ paper's audit.

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Evaluation of an online Diabetes Needs Assessment Tool (DNAT) for health professionals: A Randomised Controlled Trial

Sara Schroter, Dean Jenkins, Rebecca Playle, Kieran Walsh, Courtenay Probert, Thomas Kellner, Gerhard Arnhofer, David Owens

BMJ is conducting a large randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effectiveness of using an interactive online Diabetes Needs Assessment Tool (DNAT), that builds a learning curriculum based on identified knowledge gaps, compared with conventional self-directed learning. The study assesses the effect of these interventions on health professionals’ knowledge of diabetes management, evaluates the acceptability of this process of learning and self-reported changes in clinical practice as a result of this novel educational process. The study is being carried out in collaboration with Merck Sharp & Dohme Limited (univadis®) and the South East Wales Trials Unit (SEWTU), Cardiff University.

Current status: Study protocol published in Trials [Abstract]

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Research ethics

Authors’ awareness of publication ethics: An international survey

Sara Schroter (The BMJ), Gary Bryan (The BMJ); Elizabeth Loder, (The BMJ), Tim Houle (Wake Forest University, North Carolina); Jason Roberts (President of the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors)

Considerable time is expended by journals investigating ethical transgressions and misconduct that may be caused by ignorance rather than wilful deceit. Publication ethics are rarely taught. We are planning an international survey of authors submitting to several BMJ journals to measure the level of awareness of key ethical issues in publishing amongst a large sample of currently active researchers. We intend for this study to be one of the largest undertaken involving a variety of ethical issues. As this may be culturally dependent, we will look at geographical trends. We hope the results stimulate discussion within journal publishing and prompt efforts to improve knowledge and, in turn, behaviour.

Current status: Finalising study design.

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