It is a great loss, both in terms of knowledge and resources and in terms of credibility of the scientific community, when peer-reviewed studies are of insufficient quality. Reliability evaluations of recently published ecotoxicity studies show incomplete and inadequate reporting, regarding both description of methodology and presentation of results [1, 2]. For a reader of these publications, it can be difficult to determine whether the missing information is the result of insufficient reporting only or if it is the result of inadequate design and performance of the experiment. Regardless, this obstructs the evaluation process and decreases the chance that the studies are used in future research and for regulatory processes.
The medical journal Lancet recently presented a series on how to increase value and reduce waste in biomedical research and mentioned standards for reporting of studies in scientific journals as an important factor [3, 4]. The editor of Toxicological Sciences recently stressed the problem of low reproducibility and pointed out 3 things that journals can do to improve the situation: promote proper reporting of studies, make sure statistical analyses are accurately described and appropriately used, and request disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest . Until recently, word limits in peer-reviewed journals caused authors to focus on short and concise publications, discussing mainly their results and economizing on the description of methods. Because it is now possible to publish supporting information online, for which word limits do not apply, raw data can be provided and all aspects of a study can be described in sufficient detail .
In several research areas, systematic reporting recommendations have been developed to guide researchers, reviewers, and editors during the publication process. In the field of epidemiology, for example, the Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) statement is used to increase the quality of peer-reviewed publications . So far, the statement has been endorsed by more than 100 biomedical journals, and it provides checklists for a variety of applications: cohort studies, case–control studies, cross-sectional studies, and conference abstracts. The National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs) has developed the Animal Research: Reporting In Vivo Experiments (ARRIVE) guideline to improve the reporting of animal experiments. The guideline has been adopted by more than 300 journals and provides a checklist with 20 items, ranging from an ethical statement to sample size and funding . Minimum Information About a Microarray Experiment (MIAME) is a reporting standard created by the Functional Genomics Data Society for microarray experiments. It specifies the information necessary to interpret results from experiments clearly and to potentially reproduce the experiment . Currently, there are no generally accepted reporting guidelines for peer-reviewed ecotoxicity studies, but some journals have introduced a few specific requirements such as confirmation of exposure concentrations.
As a response to the need for a more robust and complete reporting of ecotoxicity studies, reporting recommendations have been developed in a collaboration between the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, the Swiss Centre for Applied Ecotoxicology, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, and Stockholm University . To ensure reliability and reproducibility of studies, the recommendations are based on reporting requirements for Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development test guidelines and reliability evaluation methods for ecotoxicity studies. By considering these recommendations, preferably already when designing experiments, researchers will ensure that crucial aspects of the methodology and results are reported and that others, within and outside academia, can use the study results.