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“Hardly worth the effort”? Medical journals’ policies and their editors’ and publishers’ views on trial registration and publication bias: quantitative and qualitative study

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f5248 (Published 06 September 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5248

Re: “Hardly worth the effort”? Medical journals’ policies and their editors’ and publishers’ views on trial registration and publication bias: quantitative and qualitative study

We read with interest the article published by Wager et al[1] outlining the percentage of medical journals requiring clinical trial registration, the reasons for the reluctance of mandating trial registration among journal editors and publishers and the importance of trial registration to reduce publication bias and minimise selective reporting. The International Society of Physiotherapy Journal Editors (ISPJE, www.wcpt.org/ispje‎) is in support of prospective trial registration; in September 2012 we conducted a webinar promoting mandatory prospective clinical trial registration to physiotherapy journal editors. This was followed by the publication of a joint editorial in late 2012/early 2013 by 13 leading physiotherapy journals to announce the policy of mandatory prospective clinical trial registration.e.g.[2] Since then more physiotherapy journals are following suit to adopt this policy.[3]

A recent study found that only about 6% of the randomised trials investigating the effects of physiotherapy interventions published in 2009 had been registered prospectively, however the trials published in high impact journals were more likely to be registered compared to trials published in other journals.[4] Physiotherapy trials appear to be lagging behind trials in the biomedical field as one study showed that up to 61% of randomised trials published in Medline in 2010 were registered,[5] although it is unclear how many of the 61% registered randomised trials were prospectively registered. Prior to the ISPJE’s push for mandatory prospective trial registration, only one physiotherapy journal had such policy. Physiotherapy journal editors cited the fear of turning down a good quality trial due to the lack of prospective trial registration and biasing small trials among the reasons for the reluctance to do so. However there was agreement among physiotherapy journal editors that prospective trial registration was beneficial; this was to be done by first announcing the policy of prospective trial registration on the journal’s website and rolling out of the policy by a future date. From 1 January 2013, four more physiotherapy journals have implemented the policy of mandatory prospectively registration. By 1 January 2015 all 13 physiotherapy journals that are signatories to the joint editorial will have adopted this policy. This represents 100% of all physiotherapy journals that are on the ISPJE’s database that are Medline indexed. In addition, ISPJE, ISPJE members and the World Confederation of Physical Therapy have signed up to a recent petition on trial registration lead by organisations including the BMJ (http://www.alltrials.net). We hope that this will contribute to more transparent reporting of evidence and ultimately contribute to improved patient care.

References
1. Wager E, Williams P. "Hardly worth the effort"? Medical journals' policies and their editors' and publishers' views on trial registration and publication bias: quantitative and qualitative study. BMJ 2013;347:f5248.
2. Costa LO, Lin CW, Grossi DB, Mancini MC, Swisher AK, Cook C, et al. Clinical trial registration in physiotherapy journals: recommendations from the International Society of Physiotherapy Journal Editors. Journal of physiotherapy 2012;58(4):211-3.
3. Costa LOP, Lin C-WC, Grossi DB, Mancini MC, Swisher AK, Cook C, et al. Clinical trial registration in physiotherapy journals: recommendations from the International Society of Physiotherapy Journal Editors. European Journal of Physiotherapy 2013;15:42-45.
4. Pinto RZ, Elkins MR, Moseley AM, Sherrington C, Herbert RD, Maher CG, et al. Many Randomized Trials of Physical Therapy Interventions Are Not Adequately Registered: A Survey of 200 Published Trials. Physical therapy 2012.
5. van de Wetering FT, Scholten RJPM, Haring T, Clarke M, Hooft L. Trial registration numbers are underreported in biomedical publications. PLoS One 2012;7(11):e49599.

Competing interests: No competing interests

24 September 2013
Chung-Wei Christine Lin
Secretary
Leonardo Costa, Chair, International Society of Physiotherapy Journal Editors
International Society of Physiotherapy Journal Editors
The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Level 13, 321 Kent St, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia