Registered Reports 2.0

[Excerpt taken from the article “What’s next for Registered Reports?” by Chris Chambers, published in Nature]
“For the past six years, I have championed Registered Reports (RRs), a type of research article that is radically different from conventional papers. The 30 or so journals that were early adopters have together published some 200 RRs, and more than 200 journals are now accepting submissions in this format (see ‘Rapid rise’).”
TRN(20191008)
“With RRs on the rise, now is a good time to take stock of their potential and limitations.”
HOW DO THEY WORK?
“The Registered Report format splits conventional peer review in half. First, authors write an explanation of how they will probe an important question. …Before researchers do the studies, peer reviewers assess the value and validity of the research question, the rationale of the hypotheses and the rigour of the proposed methods. They might reject the Stage 1 manuscript, accept it or accept it pending revisions to the study design and rationale. This ‘in-principle acceptance’ means that the research will be published whatever the outcome, as long as the authors adhere closely to their protocol and interpret the results according to the evidence.”
“After the Stage 1 manuscript is accepted, the authors formally preregister it in a recognized repository such as the Open Science Framework, either publicly or under a temporary embargo. They then collect and analyse data and submit a completed ‘Stage 2’ manuscript that includes results and a discussion.”
“The Stage 2 submission is sent back to the original reviewers, who cannot question the study rationale or design now that the results are known. Whether the results are judged by reviewers to be new, groundbreaking or exciting is irrelevant to acceptance.”
“An analysis this year suggests that RRs are more likely to report null findings than are conventional articles: 66% of RRs for replication studies did not support initial hypotheses; for RRs of novel studies, the figure was 55%. Estimates for conventional papers range from 5 to 20%.”
MOVING FORWARD
“RRs are not a panacea — the format needs constant refinement. It currently sits rather awkwardly between the old world of scientific publishing and the new. Innovations over the next few years should make this format even more powerful, and stimulate wider reforms.”
“Transparency. When RRs first launched, some journals published Stage 2 manuscripts but not those for Stage 1, making it impossible for readers to see whether the completed protocol matched the planned one. In 2018, the Center for Open Science launched a simple tool that places submitted Stage 1 manuscripts in a public registry. This is now used by many journals…”
“Standardization. …Currently, submitted manuscripts are often prepared in word-processing software and contain insufficient methodological detail or linking between predictions and analyses. The next generation of RRs — ‘Registered Reports 2.0’ — is likely to be template-based and could integrate tools such as Code Ocean. This would ensure that analyses are immutable within a stable, self-contained software environment. With standardized metadata and badging, RRs will become useful for systematic reviews and meta-analyses.”
“Efficiency. The review process can be extended even further back in the research life cycle. Under the emerging RR grant model, reviewers award funding and signal in-principle acceptance of a research publication simultaneously or in rapid succession. The Children’s Tumor Foundation and PLoS ONE have pioneered such a partnership, as have Cancer Research UK and the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research. More are in the works.”
“The lesson of RRs speaks to all areas of science reform.…Instead of pitting what is best for the individual against what is best for all, create a model that benefits everyone — the scientist, their community and the taxpayer — and the rest will come naturally.”
To read the article, click here.

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