Reducing bias and improving transparency in medical research: a critical overview of the problems, progress and suggested next steps

J R Soc Med. 2020 Nov;113(11):433-443. doi: 10.1177/0141076820956799.


In recent years there has been increasing awareness of problems that have undermined trust in medical research. This review outlines some of the most important issues including research culture, reporting biases, and statistical and methodological issues. It examines measures that have been instituted to address these problems and explores the success and limitations of these measures. The paper concludes by proposing three achievable actions which could be implemented to deliver significantly improved transparency and mitigation of bias. These measures are as follows: (1) mandatory registration of interests by those involved in research; (2) that journals support the 'registered reports' publication format; and (3) that comprehensive study documentation for all publicly funded research be made available on a World Health Organization research repository. We suggest that achieving such measures requires a broad-based campaign which mobilises public opinion. We invite readers to feedback on the proposed actions and to join us in calling for their implementation.

Keywords: Research and publication ethics; statistics and research methods.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information
  • Bias
  • Biomedical Research / standards*
  • Humans
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Registries
  • Research Design