Update on Trial Registration 11 Years after the ICMJE Policy Was Established

N Engl J Med. 2017 Jan 26;376(4):383-391. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsr1601330.


In the decade following the journal editors’ trial registration policy, a global trial reporting system (TRS) has arisen to supplement journal publication by increasing the transparency and accountability of the clinical research enterprise (CRE), which ultimately advances evidence-based medicine. Trial registration a foundation component of the TRS. In this article, we assess impact of the trial registration on the CRE with respect to two key goals: (1) establishing a publicly accessible and structured public record of all trials and (2) ensuring access to date-stamped protocol details that change during a study. After characterizing international trial registry landscape, we summarize the published evidence of the impact of the registration laws and policies on the CRE to date. We present three analyses using ClinicalTrials.gov registration data to illustrate approaches for assessing and monitoring the TRS: (1) timing of registration (i.e., prior to trial initiation [prospective] or after trial initiation [retrospective or “late”]; (2) degree of specificity and consistency of registered primary outcome measures compared to descriptions in study protocols and published articles; and (3) a survey of the published literature to characterize how ClinicalTrials.gov data has been used in research on the CRE. These findings suggest that, while the TRS is largely moving towards goals, key stakeholders need to do more in the next decade.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / standards*
  • Databases, Factual / statistics & numerical data*
  • Editorial Policies*
  • Internationality
  • Periodicals as Topic / standards*
  • Publishing / standards
  • Registries* / statistics & numerical data