Open Access Protocol

Protocol for a systematic review on the extent of non-publication of research studies and associated study characteristics

Susan Portalupi1, Erik von Elm12, Christine Schmucker1, Britta Lang1, Edith Motschall3, Guido Schwarzer3, Isabel T Gross4, Roberta W Scherer5, Dirk Bassler4, Joerg J Meerpohl1* and on behalf of the OPEN Consortium

Author Affiliations

1 German Cochrane Centre, Institute of Medical Biometry and Medical Informatics, University Medical Center Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

2 Cochrane Switzerland, IUMSP, University Hospital Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

3 Institute of Medical Biometry and Medical Informatics, University Medical Center Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

4 Center for Pediatric Clinical Studies, University Medical Center Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany

5 US Cochrane Center, John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Systematic Reviews 2013, 2:2  doi:10.1186/2046-4053-2-2

Published: 9 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Methodological research has found that non-published studies often have different results than those that are published, a phenomenon known as publication bias. When results are not published, or are published selectively based on the direction or the strength of the findings, healthcare professionals and consumers of healthcare cannot base their decision-making on the full body of current evidence.

Methods

As part of the OPEN project (http://www.open-project.eu webcite) we will conduct a systematic review with the following objectives:

1. To determine the proportion and/or rate of non-publication of studies by systematically reviewing methodological research projects that followed up a cohort of studies that

a. received research ethics committee (REC) approval,

b. were registered in trial registries, or

c. were presented as abstracts at conferences.

2. To assess the association of study characteristics (for example, direction and/or strength of findings) with likelihood of full publication.

To identify reports of relevant methodological research projects we will conduct electronic database searches, check reference lists, and contact experts. Published and unpublished projects will be included. The inclusion criteria are as follows:

a. RECs: methodological research projects that examined the subsequent proportion and/or rate of publication of studies that received approval from RECs;

b. Trial registries: methodological research projects that examine the subsequent proportion and/or rate of publication of studies registered in trial registries;

c. Conference abstracts: methodological research projects that examine the subsequent proportion and/or rate of full publication of studies which were initially presented at conferences as abstracts.

Primary outcomes: Proportion/rate of published studies; time to full publication (mean/median; cumulative publication rate by time).

Secondary outcomes: Association of study characteristics with full publication.

The different questions (a, b, and c) will be investigated separately. Data synthesis will involve a combination of descriptive and statistical summaries of the included methodological research projects.

Discussion

Results are expected to be publicly available in mid 2013.

Keywords:
Publication bias; Selective reporting; Abstract(s); Research ethics committees; Trial registration; The OPEN Project