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PLOS ONE partners with the Children’s Tumor Foundation to trial Registered Reports

Today, the Children’s Tumor Foundation and PLOS ONE are pleased to announce a partnership to trial the integration of Registered Reports in the grant application and publication process:

 

The Children’s Tumor Foundation (CTF) and PLOS ONE are collaborating on a new funding program in the area of neurofibromatosis (NF) research. The new initiative, called the Drug Discovery Initiative Registered Report (DDIRR) 2017 Awards, is a funder-publisher partnership to integrate the Registered Reports model in the grant application process.

Registered Reports pre-determine the research question, methodology and design of a study to be carried out, and are designed to enhance the rigor, reproducibility and transparency of the science produced. Upon thorough review of the study design at the time of grant application, awardees are guaranteed an in-principle acceptance (IPA) to publication in PLOS ONE. Provided the study is conducted according to the plan, acceptance in principle is honored regardless of study outcome—as such the Registered Report model contributes to eliminate publication bias. This new award will serve as a pilot and will evolve from the Foundation’s classic Drug Discovery Initiative Award program.

The new award program will work in three junctures. The first being the Preliminary Stage conducted by CTF, who will pre-select, by means of internal peer-review, those applications that will be invited to submit a full proposal in the form of a Registered Report. Following this invitation, applicants move into Stage 1. The Stage 1 process will run conjointly but independently between the Foundation and PLOS ONE using separate groups of reviewers, and will focus on evaluating the strength of the rationale and the ethics and rigor of the experimental design. Upon successful review, the CTF grant will be awarded along with a commitment to publication of the study results in PLOS ONE. When the study is completed, applicants submit their results to PLOS ONE and enter the Stage 2 review, which focuses on the adherence to the Registered Report, quality of execution, and accuracy of interpretation. Importantly, the journal commits to publish the results even if they do not support the initial hypothesis.

As this particular grant program focuses on hypothesis-testing research, it is particularly well suited for the application of Registered Reports. The process was designed to maintain independence of funding and publishing decisions while optimizing the processes, avoiding duplication and preventing research waste.

This new partnership between CTF and PLOS will bring enormous benefit to all stakeholders. A thorough review of the study design before it starts improves rigor and reproducibility and funded projects are guaranteed publication in a timely fashion, even if the results are negative – thereby eliminating publication bias and maximizing the transparency of the funded work. By securing publication before they start their research, applicants can eliminate the bias of a result-based approach.

“We are very proud to collaborate with PLOS on this innovative model, which will guarantee timely dissemination of results and data of the Children’s Tumor Foundation’s Drug Discovery Initiative Registered Report projects”, said Salvatore La Rosa, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Development for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. “This will translate into acceleration towards more transparent and reproducible science for the NF research community.”

“Registered Reports have an enormous potential to improve rigor and combat publication bias,” said Joerg Heber, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, PLOS ONE. “We are delighted to collaborate with the Children Tumor Foundation to experiment with their integration in the grant application process and therefore provide incentives for their adoption.”

 

Some PLOS ONE authors are already using pre-registration in their routine research practice to counter interpretation biases, making use of infrastructures like the Open Science Framework. PLOS ONE welcomes these submissions and publishes negative results on a regular basis.

A number of journals have implemented a similar Registered Reports workflow, with a list being collated as part of a useful resource by the Center for Open Science. PLOS ONE is keen to learn from this pilot to inform future steps and initiatives to address publication bias. Our pilot, like the initiative recently announced by the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research together with Cancer Research UK, is intended to test an extension of the model to tie in with grant application processes. PLOS ONE is grateful for Chris Chambers’ support of Registered Reports, as well as for the pioneering work by other journals, which has been valuable in the preparation of this project.

 

The Request for Applications for the 2017 DDIRR Awards will be open September 26th, 2017.

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