In a new study in the journal Trials, 59 researchers were interviewed about their experiences running clinical trials and getting their results published. Many of the researchers talked about the challenges they faced in getting results published: for example, negative or unclear results, a lack of time or resources or rejection by journals. About half admitted to having not published the results of a trial. The interviewers say that the researchers’ decision not to publish was generally due to “scientific naivety” as they “were often genuinely unaware of the potential problems their decisions not to publish could cause.” When trials go unreported, doctors and regulators don’t have all the information they need to make informed decisions about the risks and benefits of treatments, and the contributions of the patients in those trials remain unused.
These perspectives highlight the importance of sharing stories of how researchers have been able to get their trials published, sometimes even decades later. An example from the interviews is one researcher who was able to share their findings, even though their trial failed to recruit enough participants:
“We have had a couple of failed studies, there was one study, it was supposed to be a huge trial, looking to recruit 1,800 men, and we closed after 2 years with 35 randomised, so clearly you are not going to get anything useful out of that, but you know I badgered and badgered and eventually we managed to write a research letter to an international journal, where we just presented the baseline characteristics of the patients that joined and we talked about the randomisation of patients and we presented some anecdotal information about why we thought the trial failed.”
Trials involving hundreds of thousands patients remain unreported and unused. By sharing the results of trials that might have otherwise gone unreported, these researchers ensure that the patients’ efforts in those trials are counted.
Read more about the study on the BioMed Central blog.
Read other stories of researchers publishing their old trials in our recovered trials series.