Reproducibility: The EQUATOR Network and reporting guidelines
Increasing awareness of the lack of reproducibility in research has prompted many scientists and other professionals to develop strategies to improve research reproducibility. One key reason why there is so much waste in biomedical research is because many reports of research are incomplete or inaccurate. One group that has endeavoured improve the reporting of health research by developing reporting guidelines is the EQUATOR Network.
The EQUATOR (Enhancing the QUality and Transparency Of health Research) Network is an international initiative that aims to improve the reliability and value of published health research by promoting transparent and accurate reporting through wider use of consolidated reporting guidelines. This initiative is the first coordinated attempt to systematically tackle inadequate reporting of research. The EQUATOR website hosts links to reporting guidelines for different study designs. Guidelines for some of the more common study designs are summarised below:
- CONSORT is used for reporting parallel group randomised trials.
- STROBE is used for reporting observational studies in epidemiology (cohort, case-control, cross-sectional studies)
- PRISMA is used for reporting of systematic reviews and meta-analyses
- ARRIVE is used for reporting studies in any area of bioscience (pre-clinical) research using laboratory animals.
It should be noted that reporting guidelines provide guidance on how to report research, not guidance on how to conduct research. Nonetheless, many top medical journals now require (or strongly encourage) authors to adhere to and include the checklist for the relevant reporting guideline when submitting a manuscript, before the manuscript is considered for review. It is hoped that these practices will improve the transparency and completeness of reports of biomedical research.