Background: In response to growing recognition of the value of prospective registration of systematic review protocols, we planned to develop a web-based open access international register. In order for the register to fulfil its aims of reducing unplanned duplication, reducing publication bias, and providing greater transparency, it was important to ensure the appropriate data were collected. We therefore undertook a consultation process with experts in the field to identify a minimum dataset for registration.
Methods and findings: A two-round electronic modified Delphi survey design was used. The international panel surveyed included experts from areas relevant to systematic review including commissioners, clinical and academic researchers, methodologists, statisticians, information specialists, journal editors and users of systematic reviews. Direct invitations to participate were sent out to 315 people in the first round and 322 in the second round. Responses to an open invitation to participate were collected separately. There were 194 (143 invited and 51 open) respondents with a 100% completion rate in the first round and 209 (169 invited and 40 open) respondents with a 91% completion rate in the second round. In the second round, 113 (54%) of the participants reported having previously taken part in the first round. Participants were asked to indicate whether a series of potential items should be designated as optional or required registration items, or should not be included in the register. After the second round, a 70% or greater agreement was reached on the designation of 30 of 36 items.
Conclusions: The results of the Delphi exercise have established a dataset of 22 required items for the prospective registration of systematic reviews, and 18 optional items. The dataset captures the key attributes of review design as well as the administrative details necessary for registration.