Commentary on 'Case for BJOG compliance with prospective trial registration

14 March 2016

Prospective registration of clinical trials before enrolment of the first participant is an ethical and scientific. Registering clinical trials reduces duplication of research and aids better identification of gaps in our knowledge, as when all research on a topic can be identified it is easier to know when a new study is not needed, as the question has already been answered; and if all research is identified it becomes easier to see where there are gaps, and so where new studies are needed. Prospective registration of clinical trials reduces publication bias and bias due to selective reporting of studies with equivocal or ‘negative’ results, since studies are identified and registered before their results are known, and there is less likelihood that our understanding of research evidence is distorted by studies that have disappeared without a trace, or are slow to appear. Prospective registration of trials additionally reduces bias due to selective reporting of outcomes that are ‘positive’ as outcomes are disclosed at registration and can be compared with published reports. Prospective registration thus contributes to less scientific misconduct, as failure to report research findings accurately and make them publicly available, is a betrayal of trust of the people who participated in that research, and can lead to harm in patient care. Prospective registration also makes it harder to fabricate research results, and can result in less scientific fraud