A group of publishers today announced a development that will allow clinical trials to be easily linked to related publications, such as the study protocol, statistical analysis plan, and articles reporting trial results. The system will link items using clinical trial numbers (CTNs) and digital object identifiers (DOIs). Publishers will also be able to highlight key information such as funding sources and retractions.

The initiative is the culmination of three years’ collaboration between publishers, led by the open access publisher BioMed Central, and Crossref, a not-for-profit membership organisation for scholarly publishing working to make content easy to find, link, cite, and assess.

Daniel Shanahan, Associate Publisher at BioMed Central and Chair of the Working Group, said:

“Clinical trials can result in a large number of separate publications, from study protocols through to the results articles and secondary analyses, published in many different journals, sometimes years apart.

“Researchers need access to all of these articles if they are to reliably evaluate bias or selective reporting in the study. Identifying and centrally linking all articles related to each individual clinical trial is imperative, and publishers have an important part to play in ensuring researchers can find the information they need easily.”

Dr Stephanie Mathisen, Campaigns and Policy Officer at Sense about Science, co-founders of the AllTrials campaign, said:

“AllTrials calls for all clinical trials to be registered and their results reported; anything that improves access to results is a welcome development. We need to be able to find results from all trials on the medicines we use today. This new system will make it easier to find those results that are published in journals and we look forward to seeing it being used widely. More organisations need to join the discussion about missing clinical trial results and, like Crossref and BioMed Central, be part of the solutions.”

For more information, see the press release and Crossref blog, or contact April Ondis at Crossref (press@crossref.org) or Amy Bourke-Waite at BioMedCentral (Amy.Bourke-Waite@biomedcentral.com).