More publications needed from work funded by NZ Health Research Council, Auckland team says
Research funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand results in publication nearly 9 times out of 10, a study has found, but there is significant “research waste”.
The most probable reason the results of clinical trials go unreported is that they don’t meet the expectations of the sponsors or the investigators. Failure to report the results is it a serious form of researcher misconduct and should be treated as such. Research institutions should monitor and enforce the expectation their researchers as will report the results of trials they have conducted. Unreported trials create inefficiency and could put lives at risk. We’ve seen moves in Europe in the United States to enforce their laws in terms of the recording of clinical trial results. Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia should do the same.
The study says that more publications should result and that “null” findings need to be shared more often. It was published on 31 May in the journal BMJ Open.
Non-publication is “a failure of our obligation, as researchers, to the trial volunteers who enter trials with the belief that their contribution will go towards helping others”, the authors, led by obstetrics researcher Marian Showell, wrote. They described the tendency to not publish “null result” or “negative result” findings as “publication bias” that “potentially misrepresents healthcare evidence”.
The practice wastes money and time, they wrote.
More active role
In 2020, the HRC signed up to a World Health Organization agreement to publish results of research within a year of trial completion.
The Auckland team found that the fields of mental health and biomedical engineering were the most likely to not publish, at 60 and 50 per cent respectively. Thirteen out of 26 disciplines funded by the HRC published all their results. The average time to reach publication was 4.7 years.