The torrent of research during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed the persistent challenges with reporting trials, open science practices, and scholarship in academia. These real-world examples provide unique learning opportunities for research methodologists and clinical epidemiologists-in-training. Dr. David Moher, a recognized expert on the science of research reporting and one of the founders of the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement, was a guest speaker for the 2021 Hooker Distinguished Visiting Professor Lecture series at McMaster University and shared his insights about these issues.
This paper covers a discussion on the influence of reporting guidelines on trials and issues with the use of CONSORT as a measure of quality. Dr. Moher also addresses how the overwhelming body of COVID-19 research reflects the “publish or perish” paradigm in academia and why improvement in the reporting of trials requires policy initiatives from research institutions and funding agencies. We also discuss the rise of publication bias and other questionable reporting practices. To combat this, Dr. Moher believes open science and training initiatives led by institutions can foster research integrity, including the trustworthiness of researchers, institutions, and journals, as well as counter threats posed by predatory journals. He highlights how metrics like journal impact factor and quantity of publications also harm research integrity. Dr. Moher also discussed the importance of meta-science, the study of how research is carried out, which can help to evaluate audit and feedback systems and their effect on open science practices.
Dr. Moher advocates for policy to further improve the reporting of trials and health research. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how a lack of open science practices and flawed systems incentivizing researchers to publish can harm research integrity. There is a need for a culture shift in assessing careers and “productivity” in academia, and this requires collaborative top-down and bottom-up approaches.