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Assessment of transparent and reproducible research practices in the psychiatry literature

Sherry, Caroline E.
Pollard, Jonathan Z.
Tritz, Daniel
Carr, Branden K.
Pierce, Aaron
Vassar, Matt

Objective: Reproducibility is a cornerstone of scientific advancement; however, many published works may lack the core components needed for study reproducibility. In this study, we evaluate the state of transparency and reproducibility in the field of Psychiatry using specific indicators as proxies for these practices.

Methods: An increasing number of publications have investigated indicators of reproducibility, including research by Harwicke et al., from which we based the methodology for our observational, cross-sectional study. From a random five-year sample of 300 publications in PubMed-indexed psychiatry journals, two researchers extracted data in a duplicate, blinded fashion using a piloted Google Form. The publications were examined for indicators of reproducibility and transparency, which included availability of: materials, data, protocol, analysis script, open-access, conflict of interest, funding, and online pre-registration.

Results: This study ultimately evaluated 296 randomly-selected publications with a 3.20 median impact factor. Only 107 were available online. Most primary authors originated from the United States, United Kingdom, and Netherlands. The top three publication types were cohort studies, surveys, and clinical trials. Regarding indicators of reproducibility, 17 publications gave access to necessary materials, four provided in-depth protocol, and one contained raw data required to reproduce the outcomes. One publication offered its analysis script upon request; four provided a protocol availability statement. Only 107 publications were publicly available: 13 were registered in online repositories and four, ten, and eight publications included their hypothesis, methods, and analysis, respectively. Conflict of interest was addressed by 177 and reported by 31 publications. Of 185 publications with a funding statement, 153 were funded and 32 were unfunded.

Conclusions: Currently, Psychiatry research has significant potential to improve adherence to reproducibility and transparency practices. Thus, this study presents a reference point for the state of reproducibility and transparency in Psychiatry literature. Future assessments are recommended to evaluate and encourage progress.