New tool to help authors find the right reporting guideline

As was recently revealed in this PLOS Medicine editorial, we’ve released a new tool to help authors find and use reporting guidelines.

The EQUATOR Network maintains a library of guidelines covering all common biomedical disciplines and methodologies. You can think of the word "guideline" as meaning "Here's a list of important things other people need to know about your experiment". 

Journals encourage authors to adhere to these guidelines but in practice it's difficult to enforce them. When I talked to editors I was surprised to hear that many authors struggle to work out which guidelines are right for their study, and often this is because they don’t know what paradigm they used.

It turns out that the EQUATOR Network was also trying to solve this problem and so, together, we’ve made a tool that helps authors determine their study paradigm and then gives them the guidelines they need. It covers all of the major guidelines and (in the words of a Lancet editor) works like a choose-your-own-adventure-book.

We’ll be using the tool for Penelope but we are also making it available to any journals that wish to offer it to their authors. It can be embedded into author instruction pages, or linked to from within submission software.

We had some great feedback when we introduced it at the recent Research Waste conference, and we have a pilot lined up with BioMed Central to see if it improves the reporting quality of their submissions.