Transparency of COVID-19-related research: A meta-research study
2Institute of Dentistry, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland.; Department of Dentistry and Oral Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark., Finland
3Department of Conservative Dentistry and Oral Health & Bioinformatics Research Unit, Riga Stradins University, Riga, Latvia.; School of Dentistry, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile., Latvia
Background: The lack of transparency in COVID-19 research has led the public to mistrust the results of research and public health measures.
Objectives: To assess the adherence to five transparent practices (data availability, code availability, protocol registration and conflicts of interest [COI], and funding disclosures) from open-access COVID-19–related articles.
Methods: We searched and exported all open access COVID-19–related articles from PubMed-indexed journals available in the Europe PubMed Central database published from January 2020 to June 9, 2022. We then detected transparent practices of three article types, namely, research articles, randomized controlled trials (RCTs), and reviews, with a validated and automated tool. Basic journal- and article-related information were retrieved from the database. We used R for the analyses.
Results: The total number of articles was 258,678, of which we were able to retrieve full texts of 186,157 (72%) articles from the database. More than half of the articles (55.7%) were research articles, 10.9% (n=20,229) were review articles, and less than 1% (n=1,202) were RCTs. Approximately nine-tenths of all three article types had a statement to disclose COI. Funding disclosure (83.9%) and protocol registration (53.5%) were more frequent in RCTs than in reviews or research articles. Reviews shared data (2.5%) and code (0.4%) less frequently than RCTs or research articles. Articles published in 2022 had the highest adherence to all five transparency practices. Most of the reviews (62%) and research articles (58%) adhered to two transparency practices, whereas almost half of the RCTs (47%) adhered to three practices. There were journal- and publisher-related differences in all five practices, and apart from COI disclosure, articles that adhered to transparency practices were published in journals with slightly higher median journal impact factor but received equal citations.
Conclusions: Although most of the articles were freely available and had a COI disclosure, the adherence to other transparent practices was far from the acceptable level. A much stronger commitment to open science practices, particularly to protocol registration and data and code sharing, is needed from all stakeholders.
Patient, public and/or healthcare consumer involvement: NA.