Epidemiology and Biostatistics
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Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

​Prospective registration of research 

Selective reporting is when authors of primary research or systematic reviews report on outcomes that weren't pre-specified when the research was planned, or when outcomes that were pre-specified and addressed  get omitted from the article that get published.  This happens especially when the results of the outcomes were not desirable or significant.

Selective reporting is a problem as it introduces the risk of bias in research, which can have an enormous impact on healthcare decision-making.  An approach to try and combat the problem is to encourage and enforce the prospective registration of research.  This will allow that readers of research can compare the set of pre-specified outcomes in the protocol with the outcomes reported in the published article, and decide if all important outcomes were sufficiently addressed.  The policy of many healthcare journals nowadays is to only accept articles for publication if the authors can provide a protocol registration number.

The Division supports and encourages the prospective registration of trials and systematic reviews.  Examples of where trials can be prospectively registered include:

  • The International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is an international register of clinical trials that believes that "registration of all interventional trials is a scientific, ethical and moral responsibility". (http://www.who.int/ictrp/en/)
  • The Pan African Clinical Trials Registry (PACTR) is a regional register of clinical trials conducted in Africa. The PACT is the only WHO-endorsed registry in Africa. (http://www.pactr.org/ )

    Systematic reviews on health and social care topics can be prospectively registered in PROSPERO.  This International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews "aims to provide a comprehensive listing of systematic reviews registered at inception to help avoid unplanned duplication and enable comparison of reported review findings with what was planned in the protocol".  (http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/NIHR_PROSPERO/)