Discrepancy review: A feasibility study of a novel peer review intervention to reduce undisclosed discrepancies between registrations and publications

Robert Thibault, Tom E. Hardwicke, Robbie W.A. Clark, Charlotte Rebecca Pennington, Gustav Nilsonne, Aoife O'Mahony, Katie Drax, Jacqueline Thompson, Marcus R. Munafò,

Research output: Preprint or Working paperPreprint

Abstract

Background Undisclosed discrepancies often exist between study registrations and their associated publications. Discrepancies can increase risk of bias, and when undisclosed, they disguise this increased risk of bias from readers. To remedy this issue, we developed an intervention called discrepancy review. We provided journals with peer reviewers specifically assigned to check for undisclosed discrepancies between registrations and manuscripts submitted to journals.

Objectives We aimed to (1) evaluate the feasibility of incorporating discrepancy review as a regular practice at scientific journals and the feasibility of conducting a trial on discrepancy review; (2) explore the benefits and time required to incorporate discrepancy review as a regular practice at scientific journals; and (3) refine the discrepancy review process.

Method We performed discrepancy review on 18 manuscripts submitted to Nicotine and Tobacco Research and 3 manuscripts submitted to the European Journal of Personality. We iteratively refined the discrepancy review process based on feedback from discrepancy reviewers, editors, and authors. We then assessed whether revised manuscripts addressed recommendations from discrepancy reviewers and identified potential outcome measures for use in a future trial of discrepancy review.

Results Registrations were generally too imprecise to be effectively evaluated by our original discrepancy review process so we developed a simplified, semi-structured process. Authors addressed the majority of discrepancy reviewer comments and there was no opposition to running a trial from authors, editors, or discrepancy reviewers. Clinical trial registrations were more precise but less comprehensive than registrations on the Open Science Framework, suggesting they should be evaluated in separate trials. Outcome measures for a trial of discrepancy review on clinical trial registration could include the presence of primary or secondary outcome discrepancies and whether publications that are not the primary report from a clinical trial registration are clearly described as such. Outcome measures for a trial on Open Science Framework registrations could include assessments of whether registrations are permanent, as well as an overarching subjective assessment of the impact of discrepancies.

Conclusion We found that discrepancy review could feasibly be introduced as a regular practice at journals interested in this process. A full trial of discrepancy review would be needed to evaluate its impact on reducing undisclosed discrepancies.
Original languageEnglish
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jan 2022

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