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Editor's Choice US Editor’s Choice

The shifting debate on trial data transparency

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 15 July 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4485
  1. Edward Davies, US news and features editor
  1. edavies{at}

The BMJ is currently running a campaign for trial data transparency (, so it is fair to say that we do not approach this week’s Head to Head feature without any interest of our own.

However, it is also true that there is more than one side to this story. With that in mind, we commissioned Ben Goldacre, campaigner, and John Castellani, president and chief executive officer of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, to make the case for change (doi:10.1136/bmj.f1880) and for the status quo, respectively (doi:10.1136/bmj.f1881).

Given the existing position of the BMJ, this is probably not the place to delve too deeply into the arguments, other than to draw your attention to Goldacre’s conclusion: “The problem of missing trials is one of the greatest ethical and practical problems facing medicine today.”

Whichever side of the debate you choose to sit on, this accusation demands that you consider the arguments.

Another unusual element of this article worth expanding on is the editing period it went through before publication. The gestation period of an article is not normally of much interest to readers, but I think it merits attention that for this article, the usual timeframe of a week or two stretched out over several months.

The principal reason for this was that the landscape of the debate was so constantly changing that the articles had to be paused, revisited, and updated.

As BMJ deputy editor Trish Groves noted in her recent blog (, 2013 is quickly becoming the year of open data, and the situation is changing at a rate that is hard to keep up with.

To that end, we have several more relevant articles in the pipeline. If progress on the subject interests you, look out for Miriam Tucker’s round up of US developments on next week.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4485


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