Increasing value and reducing waste: Addressing inaccessible research
The methods and results of health research are documented in study protocols, full study reports (detailing all analyses), journal reports, and participant-level datasets. However, protocols, full study reports, and participant-level datasets are rarely available, and journal reports are available for only half of all studies and are plagued by selective reporting of methods and results. Furthermore, information provided in study protocols and reports varies in quality and is often incomplete. When full information about studies is inaccessible, billions of dollars in investment are wasted, bias is introduced, and research and care of patients are detrimentally affected. To help to improve this situation at a systemic level, three main actions are warranted. First, academic institutions and funders should reward investigators who fully disseminate their research protocols, reports, and participant-level datasets. Second, standards for the content of protocols and full study reports and for data sharing practices should be rigorously developed and adopted for all types of health research. Finally, journals, funders, sponsors, research ethics committees, regulators, and legislators should endorse and enforce policies supporting study registration and wide availability of journal reports, full study reports, and participant-level datasets.