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Authors’ reply to Dr Eysenbach

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:28 GMT

Author: Iveta Simera
Position: EQUATOR Network Project Manager
Institution: Centre for Statistics in Medicine
Additional Authors: Prof Doug Altman
Submitted Date: August 11, 2008
Published Date: August 11, 2008
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

We appreciate Dr Eysenbach’s interest in our survey but are disappointed by the tone of his remarks and some unjustified assertions.

Reporting guidelines supplement journals’ “Instructions to Authors” by providing a minimum set of information that should be reported in a research article. Development of reporting guidelines in health research is not co-ordinated and organised as for example development of clinical practice guidelines; there are no widely accepted standard methodology or implementation strategies. This is reflected in a wide variety of available reporting guidelines as mentioned in our article. The aim of our survey was to gather information how are these guidelines developed to inform future work on guidance for developers of reporting guidelines.

We did not set to survey the guidance of specific journals. This has been done elsewhere (Schriger et al.; Ann Emerg Med. 2006 Dec;48 (6):743-9).
We acknowledge that this information is by our mistake not described in the article (it was brought to our attention by one of the PLOS reviewers, and although we addressed the issue in our letter to the reviewer, we did not amend the article’s text).

Dr Eysenbach’s guideline CHERRIES was not included in our survey as we interpreted the text of his article as indicating that the guideline was presented as the policy of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, of which Dr Eysenbach is editor-in-chief:

‘… a checklist of recommendations for authors is being presented by the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) in an effort to ensure complete descriptions of Web-based surveys. Papers on Web-based surveys reported according to the CHERRIES statement will give readers a better understanding of the sample (self-)selection and its possible differences from a “representative” sample. It is hoped that author adherence to the checklist will increase the usefulness of such reports. … The editor and peer reviewers of this journal ask authors to ensure that they report the methodology fully and according to the CHERRIES checklist before submitting manuscripts.’

We adopted a systematic approach to selecting guidelines for our survey. Other guidelines were excluded for similar reasons, for example a BMJ publication on reporting structured discussions [1]. Identified guidelines that were excluded from our survey because they did not meet our selection criteria are still listed on our website, including the CHERRIES Statement and BMJ publication (http://www.equator-networ...).

We can assure Dr Eysenbach that our approach was thorough and indeed protocol-driven and far from being unsystematic and biased.

1 Docherty M, Smith R. The case for structuring the discussion of scientific papers. BMJ 1999;318:1224-1225.

Dr Iveta Simera, EQUATOR Network Project Manager, Centre for Statistics in Medicine, Oxford, UK

Prof Doug Altman, Director of Centre for Statistics in Medicine, EQUATOR Network Executive Group member, Oxford, UK

Competing interests declared: Author of paper