Systematic review protocol registration: the perspectives of researchers, peer-reviewers, and journal editors through an online survey

Session Type
Communicating evidence including misinformation and research transparency
Van der Braak K1, Heus P1, Orelio C2, Netterström-Wedin F3, Robinson K4, Lund H5, Hooft L1
1Cochrane Netherlands, Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
2Research Support, Diakonessenhuis Utrecht & Cochrane Netherlands, Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
3Cochrane International Mobility Program, Sweden
4Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA
5Section for Evidence-Based Practice, Department of Health and Functioning, Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen, Norway

Background: As systematic reviews (SRs) inform healthcare decisions, it is key that they address relevant questions and use rigorous methodology. Registration of SR protocols, which is the standard for Cochrane reviews, has been proposed to help researchers identify relevant topics for future reviews and avoid duplication of effort. Currently, most SRs protocols are not registered. Gaining understanding in the perspectives of the research community would help guide future recommendations on prospective registration of SRs.
Objectives: To examine the experiences with prospective SR protocol registration amongst researchers, peer reviewers and journal editors and identify potential barriers and facilitators.
Methods: Survey study among SR authors and journal editors informed by Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR). Data was analysed with qualitative and quantitative methods.
Results: In total, 22 journal editors and 65 researchers (of whom 37 were peer reviewers) took part in the survey. Almost all respondents (95%) were familiar with SR protocol registration and most researchers (81%) registered a protocol for at least one SR. Registration in PROSPERO and publication of a protocol were the most common methods for making SR protocols available. Four journal editors indicated that SR protocol registration was currently mandatory for publication within their journal. Moreover, 8 journal editors believed that SR protocol registration should be mandatory. Overall, researchers and journal editors had a positive attitude towards SR protocol registration. Also, they indicated that avoiding unnecessary SR duplication, as well as reducing publication and reporting bias, is important. A lack of time and finances, and fear of their research ideas being stolen, negatively impacted researchers to register their SR protocol. Journal editors also indicated lack of time and resources, multiple existing platforms for SR protocol records as barriers to employing SR protocol records during the editorial process. Both researchers and journal editors suggested a variety of ideas on how flexible SR protocol registration should be positioned.
Conclusions: Researchers and journal editors had a positive attitude towards in SR protocol registration. This study gives direction to several barriers that prevent SR protocol registration to be addressed in the future.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: None.