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Did a change in Nature journals’ editorial policy for life sciences research improve reporting?
  1. The NPQIP Collaborative group
    1. Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
    1. Correspondence to Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK; Malcolm.Macleod{at}ed.ac.uk

    Abstract

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    Objective To determine whether a change in editorial policy, including the implementation of a checklist, has been associated with improved reporting of measures which might reduce the risk of bias.

    Methods The study protocol has been published at doi: 10.1007/s11192-016-1964-8.

    Design Observational cohort study.

    Population Articles describing research in the life sciences published in Nature journals, submitted after 1 May 2013.

    Intervention Mandatory completion of a checklist during manuscript revision.

    Comparators (1) Articles describing research in the life sciences published in Nature journals, submitted before May 2013; and (2) similar articles in other journals matched for date and topic.

    Primary outcome The primary outcome is change in the proportion of Nature articles describing in vivo research published before and after May 2013 reporting the ‘Landis 4’ items (randomisation, blinding, sample size calculation and exclusions). We included 448 Nature Publishing Group (NPG) articles (223 published before May 2013, and 225 after) identified by an individual hired by NPG for this specific task, working to a standard procedure; and an independent investigator used PubMed ‘Related Citations’ to identify 448 non-NPG articles with a similar topic and date of publication from other journals; and then redacted all articles for time-sensitive information and journal name. Redacted articles were assessed by two trained reviewers against a 74-item checklist, with discrepancies resolved by a third.

    Results 394 NPG and 353 matching non-NPG articles described in vivo research. The number of NPG articles meeting all relevant Landis 4 criteria increased from 0/203 prior to May 2013 to 31/181 (16.4%) after (two-sample test for equality of proportions without continuity correction, Χ²=36.2, df=1, p=1.8×10−9). There was no change in the proportion of non-NPG articles meeting all relevant Landis 4 criteria (1/164 before, 1/189 after). There were more substantial improvements in the individual prevalences of reporting of randomisation, blinding, exclusions and sample size calculations for in vivo experiments, and less substantial improvements for in vitro experiments.

    Conclusion There was an improvement in the reporting of risks of bias in in vivo research in NPG journals following a change in editorial policy, to a level that to our knowledge has not been previously observed. However, there remain opportunities for further improvement.

    • BMJOS
    • checklist
    • quality improvement

    This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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    Review history and Supplementary material

    Footnotes

    • Prepublication and Review History is available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjos-2017-000035.

    • A preprint version of this article is available at https://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/09/12/187245

    • Handling editor Chris Chambers

    • Funding The study was funded by a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, who played no role in the design, conduct or analysis of the study or in decisions regarding publication or dissemination.

    • Competing interests None declared.

    • Patient consent Not required.

    • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned, externally peer reviewed.

    • Collaborators Study steering committee: Malcolm Macleod (University of Edinburgh, Chief Investigator and Chair), Emily Sena (University of Edinburgh), David Howells (University of Tasmania). Study management committee: Malcolm Macleod (University of Edinburgh, Chief Investigator and Chair), Emily Sena (University of Edinburgh), David Howells (University of Tasmania), Veronique Kiermer (Nature, until mid 2015), Sowmya Swaminathan (Nature, from mid 2015). Redaction and identification of articles: Hugh Ash, Rosie Moreland (Imperial College, London). Authoring and testing of training materials: Cadi Irvine, Paula Grill, Monica Dingwall, Emily Sena, Gillian Currie, Malcolm Macleod (University of Edinburgh). Programming and data management: Jing Liao, Chris Sena (University of Edinburgh). Outcome assessors: Paula Grill, Monica Dingwall, Malcolm Macleod, Cadi Irvine, Cilene Lino de Oliveira, Daniel-Cosmin Marcu, Fala Cramond, Sulail Rajani, Andrew Ying, Hanna Vesterinen, Roncon Paolo, Kaitlyn Hair, Marie Soukupova, Devon C Crawford, Kimberley Wever, Mahajabeen Khatib, Ana Antonic, Thomas Ottavi, Xenios Milidonis, Klara Zsofia Gerlei, Thomas Barrett, Ye Liu, Chris Choi, Evandro Araújo De-Souza, Alexandra Bannach-Brown, Peter-Paul Zwetsloot, Kasper Jacobsen Kyng, Sarah McCann, Emily Wheater, Aaron Lawson McLean, Marco Casscella, Alice Carter, Privjyot Jheeta, Emma Eaton. Reconciliation: Alexandra Bannach-Brown, Malcolm Macleod, Monica Dingwall, Paula Grill, Kaitlyn Hair, Cilene Lino de Oliveira, Sulail Rajani, Daniel-Cosmin Marcu, Cadi Irvine, Fala Cramond. Data analysis: Paula Grill, Jing Liao, Malcolm Macleod. Writing Committee: Malcolm Macleod, David Howells, Jing Liao, Paul Grill, Emily Sena.

    • Open data Raw data are available at https://figshare.com/articles/NPQIP_final_analysis_set/5375275/1.

    • Open materials All materials have been made publicly available: https://osf.io/HC7FK/.

    • Preregistration Design and analysis plans have been preregistered and are publicly available: https://osf.io/HC7FK/. Additional registration protocol: 10.1007/s11192-016-1964-8.

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