Evaluation of Reporting Guideline Implementation by Editors of Rehabilitation-Related Journals

Allen Heinemann,1 Leighton Chan,1 Helen Hoenig,1 Glenn Collins,1 Jason Roberts2

Objective To describe the experience of rehabilitation journal editors in implementing reporting guidelines for original research articles.

Design We distributed, via email, an online survey to editors of 35 rehabilitation journals who agreed in 2013 to support the use of reporting guidelines. We emailed 2 reminders to complete the survey.

Results The response rate was 66% (23 of 35 editors). The editors received a mean of 435 submissions in 2016 (range, 61 to 1766) and published a mean of 93 manuscripts (range, 20 to 312). We reviewed author guidelines for the 12 journals whose editors did not respond to the survey and coded their guideline requirements. Overall, 60% (21 of 35) of journals require reporting guidelines. Editors of the 14 journals not requiring authors’ use of reporting guidelines provided various reasons despite their 2013 support of reporting guidelines, including the belief that they did not improve manuscript quality. Among the 23 responding editors, CONSORT and PRISMA were required by 16 (70%), STROBE by 14 (61%), STARD by 13 (57%), and CARE by 9 (39%). Only 3 (13%) of journals allow exceptions. Most (12 of 14, 86%) require guideline checklist upload with submission. Only 6 (26%) of responding editors involve a statistical expert in reviewing every article. Time estimates to review guidelines on an individual article ranged from less than 15 minutes (7 of 16, 44%) to 15 to 30 minutes (7 of 16, 44%) to more than 30 minutes (2 of 16, 12%). While 10 of 17 responding editors (59%) believe authors accurately complete reporting guideline checklists with a few exceptions, the others (7 of 17, 41%) perceived quite a few exceptions to authors’ accuracy and completeness. Most (12 of 21, 57%) believed that reporting guidelines resulted in a great deal of improvement in the quality of submitted manuscripts while others perceived some improvement (8 of 21, 38%) or no improvement (1 of 21, 5%). Editors identified authors’ lack of familiarity with reporting guidelines as the largest barrier to reporting guidelines use; other barriers included increased time on editorial staff and costs associated with extra pages. Facilitators included mandatory use of guidelines and author educational efforts. Recommendations included promoting cooperation among editors to implement reporting guidelines, long lead times before requiring use of reporting guidelines, educating authors on the use of guidelines through links to outside resources, and detailed author instructions. Editors valued the education resources provided by the EQUATOR Network.

Conclusions Editors of rehabilitation journals perceive the mandatory use of reporting guidelines to result in modest to considerable improvement in the quality of submitted manuscripts. They identified several strategies to promote author cooperation.

1Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Reston, Virginia, USA, aheinemann@acrm.org; 2Origin Editorial, Leander, TX, USA

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Funding/Support: None reported.

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