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Mandatory Use of Checklists for Reporting Guidelines

Section Editor(s): Caplan, Bruce PhD, ABPP; Bogner, Jennifer PhD, ABPP; Corrigan, John D. PhD; Editor-in-Chief

Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: May/June 2014 - Volume 29 - Issue 3 - p 197
doi: 10.1097/HTR.0000000000000056
From the Editor

The editor declares no conflicts of interest.

THE March issue of the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation includes an Editorial explaining why that journal, joined by 29 others in rehabilitation and disability, will be mandating the use of reporting guidelines for manuscripts submitted for publication. While the editors of the Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation (JHTR) agree with the desired outcome of this policy—ensuring quality research on disability and rehabilitation—we have chosen not to make checklists mandatory for manuscript submission. This decision was not made lightly and was only arrived at after consulting our Editorial Board.

Our decision hinged around 2 primary concerns. First, we do not believe that the guidelines developed for each type of study design reflect the specificity that has made the CONSORT guidelines for randomized clinical trials so useful. Mandating the use of guidelines creates the expectation that all criteria have been met. However, when those criteria are not adequately specific, the goal of increasing quality gets diluted by the desire to simply check off an item. Second, we believe that there are research reports that are useful for the field but do not meet the standards implied by the guidelines. As an example, scoping reviews of how a field has addressed an emerging issue serves a purpose when a systematic review meeting PRISMA standards would be premature. At this juncture, JHTR will continue to rely on the evaluation of our peer reviewers to ensure both the quality and utility of the research published.

While JHTR will not make checklists mandatory at this time, the discussions surrounding this decision have suggested several ways in which we believe we can continue to educate the authors and reviewers of manuscripts submitted for publication on principles and procedures of research design. In our Instructions for Authors, we will suggest that authors consult the appropriate guidelines for the research design used, with links to the EQUATOR Network Web site. We will be sharing a summary of the resources available on the EQUATOR Network Web site with our Editorial Board and all guest reviewers. Upon submission of a manuscript, authors will have the option of uploading the appropriate checklist with their manuscript. We expect that these steps will promote education of authors and reviewers and serve to improve the quality of disability and rehabilitation research, a goal JHTR will continue to monitor carefully.

We applaud the intentions of our fellow editors and share their desire to see high-quality research in disability and rehabilitation. We also applaud JHTR's authors who have given us the privilege of publishing high-quality articles that advance the journal's vision of knowledge informing care.

—John D. Corrigan, PhD


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