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Following the List

Some aspects of guidelines for how to report preclinical animal studies are largely left out of published reports, according to a study in PLOS Biology this week.

The Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments, or ARRIVE, guidelines were published in 2010 as part of an effort to standardize how such studies are reported. The guidelines include a 20-item checklist, which entails including an ethics statement, providing details of the control and experimental groups, and describing the statistical analyses conducted.

In the new report, researchers led by David Baker from Queen Mary University of London examined how well papers published in PLOS and Nature Publishing Group journals adhere to these guidelines.

They compared papers published in those journals during the two years before guidelines were established to papers published in the two years after.

The researchers note that journal now typically ask for ethics statements, and 93 percent of the pre-ARRIVE and 94 percent of post-ARRIVE PLOS journal articles and 100 percent of the pre-ARRIVE and 100 percent of the post-ARRIVE Nature journal articles included ethics statements.

Adherence to other aspects of the guidelines was not as high. For instance, less than 10 percent of studies published by either company reported randomization, and even fewer described power or sample size analyses.

"There's this very vocal minority of clinicians who say 'animal data is rubbish, it never translates into human benefit,'" Baker tells the Nature News blog. "By doing bad science which is of poor quality and experimental design, we just pander to that problem."

In a related editorial, PLOS notes that PLOS Medicine already requires authors to submit the checklist; PLOS One encourages its use and is considering mandating it; and PLOS Biology is weighing how to proceed.

The Nature News blog adds that Nature Publishing Group began asking researchers last May to fill out a checklist regarding statistical analyses and animal experiment details.