The first evidence highlighting the serious problem of publication bias was published in 1986, accompanied by a simple solution – full registration of trials.1 Since then, many academics have published papers describing problems with evidence-based medicine, and yet, there has been very little effective action to fix these problems. Twenty eight years after the first call for an international clinical trials registry, the Alltrials campaign demonstrates the level of commitment, work and energy required to enable real change in this area.

In a new paper published in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology2, Ben Goldacre and Tracey Brown, co-founders of AllTrials, argue that fixing flaws in science must be professionalised. Highlighting the problems and solutions surrounding publication bias and selective outcome reporting, the authors conclude that these problems will not go away until they are assigned resources worthy of the problem:

“Fixing structural flaws in science is labour intensive. It requires extensive lobbying of policy makers and professional bodies; close analysis of evidence on flaws and opportunities; engaging the public to exert pressure back on professionals; creating digital infrastructure to support transparency; open, public audit of best and worst practice; and more. If we do not regard this as legitimate professional activity – worthy of grants, salaries, and foreground attention from a reasonable number of trained scientists and medics – then it will not happen. The public, and the patients of the future, may not judge our inaction kindly.”

The full paper can be accessed for free on Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog.

  1. Simes RJ. Publication bias: the case for an international registry of clinical trials. J Clin Oncol. 1986 Oct 1;4(10):1529–41.
  2. Goldacre B, Brown T. Fixing flaws in science must be professionalised. J Clin Epidemiol. July 10 2015. doi:10.1016/j.jclinepi.2015.06.018