Insufficient transparency of statistical reporting in preclinical research: a scoping review

Sci Rep. 2021 Feb 8;11(1):3335. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-83006-5.


Non-transparent statistical reporting contributes to the reproducibility crisis in life sciences, despite guidelines and educational articles regularly published. Envisioning more effective measures for ensuring transparency requires the detailed monitoring of incomplete reporting in the literature. In this study, a systematic approach was used to sample 16 periodicals from the ISI Journal Citation Report database and to collect 233 preclinical articles (including both in vitro and animal research) from online journal content published in 2019. Statistical items related to the use of location tests were quantified. Results revealed that a large proportion of articles insufficiently describe tests (median 44.8%, IQR [33.3-62.5%], k = 16 journals), software (31%, IQR [22.3-39.6%]) or sample sizes (44.2%, IQR [35.7-55.4%]). The results further point at contradictory information as a component of poor reporting (18.3%, IQR [6.79-26.7%]). No detectable correlation was found between journal impact factor and the quality of statistical reporting of any studied item. The under-representation of open-source software (4.50% of articles) suggests that the provision of code should remain restricted to articles that use such packages. Since mounting evidence indicates that transparency is key for reproducible science, this work highlights the need for a more rigorous enforcement of existing guidelines.