Structured tools used by researchers to guide reporting when writing a manuscript; they are considered before starting the experiment.
What are reporting standards?
Reporting standards are structured tools used by researchers to guide reporting when writing a manuscript and are often depicted as a checklist. Guidelines are developed by members of various scientific communities that are considered experts in their area of research. Reporting guidelines represent the minimum amount of detail that should be reported on to describe key elements. Two highly cited frameworks in preclinical research are the Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) Guidelines and the National Institute of Health (NIH) Principles and Guidelines.
Who should use reporting standards?
All researchers are responsible for consulting the appropriate reporting guidelines when drafting academic manuscripts.
How to identify appropriate reporting guidelines for your research?
The Enhancing the Quality and Transparency of Health Research (EQUATOR) group has designed a reporting guideline search engine. This tool facilitates the identification of reporting guidelines that are relevant to your area of interest. The search engine can be found here. For preclinical, laboratory based research a list of common guidelines can be found here.
When should you use reporting standards?
Reporting should be considered before starting the research experiment to ensure all criteria are met and implemented when reporting the methods and results in the manuscript. However, it is possible that some checklist items cannot be met during the experiment. If this is the case, then it is important that authors report this in the manuscript along with a brief explanation as to why these checklist items were not met.
Why use reporting standards to write a manuscript?
Standardized reporting provides the minimum amount of information to increase transparency of the methods performed and permits reproducibility of scientific findings. Top academic journals endorse standardized reporting across independent research manuscripts. A list of reporting guidelines used by top academic journals can be found here.
You are interested in investigating the therapeutic effects of mesenchymal stromal cells in a mouse model of stroke. Before beginning the experiment, you identify 2-3 academic journals that may be interested in publishing your research. You discover that all three journals require that your manuscript follow the ARRIVE reporting guidelines to be considered for publication. You decide to review this checklist before starting your experiment to ensure that all criteria are met in your research plan and you adequately keep a detailed and organized record of your experiment. You use ARRIVE as a guide when drafting your manuscript because you documented elements of the checklist during your experiment as best you could.
Simply, not taking reporting guidelines into consideration at any point in the research process. You performed several experiments that are ready to be incorporated into a manuscript and published. You decide that PLOS Biology is an appropriate journal for your research. You realize that PLOS Biology endorses the ARRIVE guidelines which you have never heard of. After researching them, you realize that you forgot to record many aspects of your experiments including the vendor and catalogue numbers for the reagents you used. You also did not blind or randomize your animals and have no good reason it was not incorporated into your experiments. Your manuscript is therefore missing critical details that another researcher may require to understand the risk of bias in your results and/or try and replicate your findings. It is likely that the journal will not publish without these details .
Resources and Tools
Tools to facilitate identifying relevant reporting standards:
Examples of standard reporting guidelines:
Publications outlining importance:
- Collins, F. S., & Tabak, L. A. (2014). Policy: NIH plans to enhance reproducibility. Nature, 505(7485), 612–613.
- Glasziou, P., Altman, D. G., Bossuyt, P., Boutron, I., Clarke, M., Julious, S., Michie, S., Moher, D., & Wager, E. (2014). Reducing waste from incomplete or unusable reports of biomedical research. Lancet (London, England), 383(9913), 267–276.
- Kilkenny, C., Browne, W. J., Cuthill, I. C., Emerson, M., & Altman, D. G. (2010). Improving bioscience research reporting: the ARRIVE guidelines for reporting animal research. PLoS biology, 8(6), e1000412.
- Landis, S., Amara, S., Asadullah, K. et al. A call for transparent reporting to optimize the predictive value of preclinical research. Nature 490, 187–191 (2012).