What do you think about the idea that registered reports could become the default way of publishing research?
The format is well suited to disciplines which lend themselves to testing hypotheses (confirmatory research).
More recently, several journals including Nature Methods, Nature Communications and Scientific Reports have opened the format to studies aimed at carrying out a comparison of the performance of established methods or tools. In that case, the experimental design and data analysis plan is peer-reviewed and registered prior to data collection but there is no intent to test a hypothesis.
Ultimately, I would like registered reports to be on the radar of researchers across disciplines as a format that may be suitable for them whenever they are setting out to test a hypothesis based on existing literature or comparing methods. However, the format in its current form is unlikely to be suited for research that is purely exploratory.
Give us your top tips for researchers thinking of publishing in this way…
I would strongly encourage researchers to consult the detailed information provided by the Center for Open Science ahead of laying down their research question and hypothesis, as well as getting familiar with journal specific guidelines for the format, as those may vary.
In terms of improving reproducibility and research integrity – do you think registered reports will be enough?
The format is one avenue to improve reproducibility and research integrity, but it is certainly not the only avenue and, as discussed, it may not be suitable in some cases.
Without going through the entire process of submitting a registered report to a journal, pre-registering your study plan on a site such as the Open Science Foundation, or on a recognised clinical trials registry when appropriate, provides rigour and accountability. However, registration within the context of the registered reports helps with both integrity and reproducibility, because the protocol is reviewed by other experts prior to registration.
It’s equally important to ensure that data and code linked to a published study are shared among researchers and detailed experimental protocols made available on an open platform.
At Nature Communications, we also believe that making the publication process transparent is key to ensure accountability of researchers and reviewers and thus, the exchange occurring between reviewers and researchers during the peer-review process is published alongside all our articles.