Impact of peer review on reports of randomised trials published in open peer review journals: Retrospective before and after study
Wharton R., Shamseer L., Altman DG.
Objective: To investigate the effectiveness of open peer review as a mechanism to improve the reporting of randomised trials published in biomedical journals. Design: Retrospective before and after study. Setting: BioMed Central series medical journals. Sample: 93 primary reports of randomised trials published in BMC-series medical journals in 2012. Main outcome measures: Changes to the reporting of methodological aspects of randomised trials in manuscripts after peer review, based on the CONSORT checklist, corresponding peer reviewer reports, the type of changes requested, and the extent to which authors adhered to these requests. Results: Of the 93 trial reports, 38% (n=35) did not describe the method of random sequence generation, 54% (n=50) concealment of allocation sequence, 50% (n=46) whether the study was blinded, 34% (n=32) the sample size calculation, 35% (n=33) specification of primary and secondary outcomes, 55% (n=51) results for the primary outcome, and 90% (n=84) details of the trial protocol. The number of changes between manuscript versions was relatively small; most involved adding new information or altering existing information. Most changes requested by peer reviewers had a positive impact on the reporting of the final manuscript - for example, adding or clarifying randomisation and blinding (n=27), sample size (n=15), primary and secondary outcomes (n=16), results for primary or secondary outcomes (n=14), and toning down conclusions to reflect the results (n=27). Some changes requested by peer reviewers, however, had a negative impact, such as adding additional unplanned analyses (n=15). Conclusion: Peer reviewers fail to detect important deficiencies in reporting of the methods and results of randomised trials. The number of these changes requested by peer reviewers was relatively small. Although most had a positive impact, some were inappropriate and could have a negative impact on reporting in the final publication.