Research Article: Guidance for Developers of Health Research Reporting Guidelines

Date Published: February 16, 2010

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): David Moher, Kenneth F. Schulz, Iveta Simera, Douglas G. Altman

Abstract: David Moher and colleagues from the EQUATOR network offer guidance and recommended steps for developing health research reporting guidelines.

Partial Text: Publishing health research is a thriving, and increasing, enterprise. On any given month about 63,000 new articles are indexed in PubMed, the United States National Library of Medicine’s public access portal for health-related publications. However, the quality of reporting in most health care journals remains inadequate. Glasziou and colleagues [1] assessed descriptions of given treatments in 80 trials and systematic reviews for which summaries were published during one year (October 2005 to October 2006) in Evidence-Based Medicine, a journal that is aimed at physicians working in primary care and general medicine. Treatment descriptions were inadequate in 41 of the original published articles, which made their use in clinical practice difficult if not impossible to replicate. This is just one of numerous examples of a large and disturbing literature indicating the general failure in the quality of reporting health research [2]–[6]. Many publications lack clarity, transparency, and completeness in how the authors actually carried out their research.

The meeting should follow closely the pre-meeting plans, although timings should be flexible. It is unlikely that all the participants will know each other, so it is helpful for everyone to introduce themselves and indicate the relevance of their particular experience. One of the first tasks of the meeting is to review the objectives and the way the meeting will run, and to clarify any outstanding issues among the participants.

Together with drafting and finalizing guideline documents the reporting guideline developers need to consider their implementation strategy, including publication issues (open access, copyright, peer review, and multiple and possibly simultaneous publications), website development, and seeking or monitoring endorsement of and adherence to the reporting guideline.

We hope this guidance on how to develop a reporting guideline, including an 18-step checklist, will fill a gap in the literature and be of help to potential and practicing developers. While some of the items are optional, there is a core set of steps we believe necessary to ensure adequate development of a reporting guideline. In the future, the EQUATOR Network might consider providing an appraisal grade for the reporting guidelines included on their database, reflecting the robustness of the guideline development process. We also encourage prospective guideline developers to contact the EQUATOR Network team to inform them about their work; this might prevent duplication of effort.



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