Attitudes and Experiences of Authors, Reviewers, and Editors About Responsible and Detrimental Research Practices and the Transparency and Openness Promotion Guidelines Across Scholarly Disciplines

Mario Malički,1 IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg,2 Lex Bouter,3,4 Adrian Mulligan,5 Gerben ter Riet1,6


Transparency and Openness Promotion (TOP) guidelines were published in 2014, and since then, more than 5000 journals and 80 organizations have become TOP signatories.1 However, attitudes toward all TOP guideline recommendations have not been systematically assessed. The goal of this study was to assess differences in attitudes and experiences of authors, reviewers, and editors about conducting and reporting research (TOP guidelines), their research environment, and perceived prevalence of responsible and detrimental research practices.


A survey was sent in 2018 to 100,000 randomly selected corresponding authors of articles indexed in Scopus, with 2 reminder rounds. The survey was designed for this study and consisted of 38 questions using 5-item rating scales (eg, from strongly agree to strongly disagree) and 10 (categorical) sociodemographic questions. Responses were presented as absolute numbers and percentages based on number of respondents per question. Ordinal regression analyses were used to explore associations between answers to questions and sociodemographic characteristics. All analyses were conducted in Stata, version 13, and P ≤ .001 was considered statistically significant.


Study response rate was 4.9% (3659 of 74,749 delivered emails) and included responses from 1389 authors, 1833 reviewers, and 434 editors. Respondents came from 126 countries, had a median age of 44 years (IQR, 35-55 years), and were most commonly from physical sciences (1034 [33%]) and life sciences (796 [25%]). There were no significant differences between authors, reviewers, and editors in their attitudes toward TOP guidelines, but some TOP recommendations (eg, study preregistration) were not supported. A majority (3462 [97%]) of respondents (strongly) agreed that researchers must appropriately cite study data, methods, and materials; 2675 (74%) that authors must follow appropriate reporting guidelines; 2174 (60%) that researchers must share data; 797 (23%) that authors must include the full data analysis plan in study preregistration; and 751 (21%) that studies must be preregistered. One fifth of respondents (701 [20%]) admitted sacrificing the quality of their publications for quantity, and 492 (14%) reported funders interfering in their study design or reporting. Undeserved authorship was perceived by all groups as the most prevalent detrimental research practice, while fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, and not citing prior relevant research were seen as more prevalent by editors than authors or reviewers (Table 38). Additional findings are available elsewhere.2


There were no differences in attitudes between authors, reviewers, and editors toward specific TOP recommendations, although some recommendations were not supported. Respondents’ perceptions of their research environments and of prevalence of detrimental research practices indicated that there is still much room for improvement. Without agreement and involvement of all stakeholders, it is unlikely that TOP recommendations will become standard practice. This study is limited by the overall low response rate, and therefore, the results might not be generalizable.


1. Nosek BA, Alter G, Banks GC, et al. Promoting an open research culture. Science. 2015;348(6242):1422-1425. doi:10.1126/science.aab2374

2. Malički M, Aalbersberg IJ, Bouter L, Mulligan A, ter Riet G. Transparency in conducting and reporting research: a survey of authors, reviewers, and editors across scholarly disciplines. Research Square. Preprint posted online January 26, 2022. doi:10.21203/rs.3.rs-1296644/v1

1Urban Vitality Centre of Expertise, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, mario.malicki@mefst.hr; 2Elsevier, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; 3Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; 4Department of Epidemiology and Data Science, Amsterdam University Medical Centers, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; 5Elsevier, Oxford, UK; 6Department of Cardiology, Amsterdam University Medical Centers, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Conflict of Interest Disclosures

Mario Malički is co–Editor in Chief of Research Integrity and Peer Review. IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg is Senior Vice President of Research Integrity at Elsevier. Lex Bouter is a member of the Peer Review Congress Advisory Board but was not involved in the review or decision for this abstract. Adrian Mulligan is a research director for Customer Insights at Elsevier. No other disclosures were reported.


Elsevier funded the work of Mario Malički in this study.