Objective: To describe the surgical journal position statement on data-sharing policies (primary objective) and to describe the other features of their research transparency promotion.
Methods: Only “SURGICAL” journals with an impact factor superior to 2 (Web of Science) were eligible for the study. They were not included if there were no explicit instructions for clinical trial publication in the official instructions for authors (OIA) and if there were no randomized controlled trial (RCT) published between 1st January 2016 and 31st December 2018. The primary outcome was the existence of a data-sharing policy in the instructions for authors. Data sharing policy was detailed in 3 categories, inclusion of data sharing policy mandatory, optional or not available. Details on research transparency promotion were also collected, namely the existence of a “prospective registration of clinical trials requirement” policy; a conflict of interests (COIs) disclosure requirement and a specific reference to reporting guidelines such as CONSORT for RCT.
Results: Among the 87 surgical journals eligible, 82 were included in the study: 67 (82%) had explicit instructions for RCT and of the remaining, 15 (18%) had published at least one RCT. The median impact factor was 2.98 [IQR=2.48-3.77] and in 2016 and 2017, the journals published a median of 11.5 RCT [IQR=5-20.75]. Data-sharing statement instructions (primary outcome) was retrieved in 41 journals (50%); Data-sharing statement instructions were mandatory in four cases (4.9%), optional in 45% (n=37) and not available in 50% (n=41) of the journals. As for data-sharing statements, no association was found between journal characteristics and the existence of data-sharing policies (mandatory or optional). A “prospective registration of clinical trials requirement” was associated with ICMJE allusion or affiliation and higher impact factors. Journals with specific RCT instructions in their OIA and journals referenced on the ICMJE website more frequently mandated the use of CONSORT guidelines.
Conclusion: Research transparency promotion is still limited in surgical journals. Standardisation of journal requirements according to ICMJE guidelines could be a first step forward for research transparency promotion in surgery.