Royal Society Open Science to tackle publication bias

05 May 2015

The Royal Society announced today that it is to offer a new publishing option on its newest journal, Royal Society Open Science, which aims to tackle the biases in traditional formats. The journal is the first to offer the option of Registered Reports across all scientific disciplines. The announcement was made at the Society’s Future of Scholarly Scientific Communication event (5-6 May) which is exploring the future of scientific publishing.

The new model, available for submissions to the journal later this year, splits the traditional peer-review process in two. Research methods, protocols and hypotheses are peer-reviewed and pre-approved for publication before data is collected. As the results of studies are not known at the time of pre-approval the new model helps to eradicate potential publication bias against negative data and reduces the pressure on authors to increase the ‘publishability’ of their findings. 

Adding Registered Reports to Royal Society Open Science supports the Society’s commitment to continuing the evolution of scientific publishing and reproducibility.

The Future of Scholarly Scientific Communication events have convened experts from across science and the publishing world  to discuss issues such as peer review, the use of impact metrics in research assessment, reproducibility, ethics and misconduct, business models and profiting from publishing, and the mechanisms by which scientific knowledge is disseminated and assessed.

Commenting on the new model to be offered by Royal Society Open Science, Stuart Taylor, Publishing Director at the Royal Society, said:

“Traditional models of publishing and research assessment can drive scientists and journals to over-value eye-catching results and skew the literature. By reviewing and pre-approving submissions before the results are known, we hope Registered Reports will remove some of that pressure and help to encourage a  culture of transparency and reproducibility in science. We feel it is particularly appropriate to be introducing this change as we celebrate 350 years since the publication of the world’s first science journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.”

The Registered Reports model will use the same robust peer-review that is used across all Royal Society journals. If the first stage of peer review – reviewing the proposed methodology and research question - is positive, the study will be given an ‘in-principle acceptance’. This guarantees publication of the final research paper if the agreed experimental protocol is followed. Once the data is collected the final manuscript will undergo a second peer review before publication.

Royal Society Open Science is one of only a handful of journals which are offering Registered Reports for researchers submitting papers and is the only journal making Registered Reports available across such a broad range of sciences. The Registered Reports idea was originally pioneered by the neuroscience journal Cortex.