Underreporting research is scientific misconduct

JAMA. 1990 Mar 9;263(10):1405-8.


Substantial numbers of clinical trials are never reported in print, and among those that are, many are not reported in sufficient detail to enable judgments to be made about the validity of their results. Failure to publish an adequate account of a well-designed clinical trial is a form of scientific misconduct that can lead those caring for patients to make inappropriate treatment decisions. Investigators, research ethics committees, funding bodies, and scientific editors all have responsibilities to reduce underreporting of clinical trials. An extended use of prospective registration of trials at inception, as well as benefiting clinical research in other ways, could help people to play their respective roles in reducing underreporting of clinical trials.

KIE: Chalmers discusses two phenomena that he regards as forms of scientific misconduct. The first is the selection of reports for publication on the basis of "positive results" rather than of whether they have been well conceptualized and competently executed. The second is the failure of investigators to publish results with sufficient detail to allow judgments to be made about their validity. Chalmers gives examples of underreporting of research in the field of perinatology, and reports on a survey he and colleagues conducted in an attempt to identify unpublished randomized trials. He discusses ways that the problem of underreporting might be reduced through the efforts of investigators, funding organizations, ethics committees, and journal editors. Chalmers suggests that these efforts could be aided by wider adoption of prospective registration of trials at their inception.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Editorial Policies*
  • Ethics Committees, Clinical
  • Ethics Committees, Research
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Internationality
  • Peer Review / methods
  • Perinatology
  • Periodicals as Topic
  • Pregnant Women
  • Publishing*
  • Research Design / standards
  • Resource Allocation
  • Scientific Misconduct*
  • Twinning, Monozygotic