Intended for healthcare professionals

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Declaration of transparency for each research article

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 07 August 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4796
  1. Douglas G Altman, director1,
  2. David Moher, senior scientist2
  1. 1Centre for Statistics in Medicine, University of Oxford, Botnar Research Centre, Oxford, UK
  2. 2Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Ottawa Hospital - General Campus, Ottawa, ON K1H 8L6, Canada
  1. doug.altman{at}

An antidote to inadequate reporting of research

“It is the responsibility of everyone involved to ensure that the published record is an unbiased, accurate representation of research.”1

The research record is often manipulated for short term gain but at the risk of harm to patients. The medical research community needs to implement changes to ensure that readers obtain the truth about all research, especially reports of randomised trials, which hold a special place in answering what works best for patients.

Failure to publish the findings of all studies, especially randomised trials, seriously distorts the evidence base for clinical decision making. A recent systematic review of reboxetine for treating depression found that almost three quarters of included patients were in unpublished trials.2 Of 904 completed trials of interventions for acute ischaemic stroke (1955-2008), a fifth were not properly published, “several of which may be large enough to influence clinical practice and the findings of systematic reviews and meta-analyses.”3

Bad as non-publication is, incomplete or misleading publications cause greater problems. Results of clinical trials published in peer reviewed publications may differ from what was previously submitted to regulatory agencies,4 5 6 with the published data being more positive. The primary outcome often differs from what the researchers had stated in the trial protocol7 8 or …

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