Trials celebrates its 5th birthday this year. In Trials’ launch editorial, Editors-in-Chief Doug Altman, Curt Furberg, Jeremy Grimshaw and Peter Rothwell wrote of the importance of trial reporting, and announced that a key aim of the journal was not only to promote and encourage the reporting of all randomized controlled trials (RCTs), but to make this information freely available online.
Half a decade later, Trials has published more than 600 open access articles. Of these articles, 500 are study protocols, important records of ongoing RCTs for which Trials has become a prominent venue. Protocols like the ARTIS-Trial study design by Zinkstok et al. are important for ensuring transparency for clinical trials and providing a marker against which outcomes, successful or not, can be measured.
A further, and essential, process to ensure that clinical trials are traceable, and that the reported results are a true reflection of the original study aims, is trial registration. Trial registration, such as in the ISRCTN register, has been central to the journal’s policies; registration is a necessity for submission and publication. This contribution to what is a general trend among the research community has helped foster open discussion of more contentious issues, including the reporting of reflective, ‘lessons learned’ articles as in Raymond et al.’s description of the failure of the TEAM (Trial on Endovascular Aneurysm Management) trial to reach its expected sample size.
The last five years is by no means the sum of Trials’ innovation in trial reporting. The journal will soon publish its first ‘Update’ article, a development in response to an identified need for a citable articles highlighting changes to existing protocols, or amended conclusions in light of newly published results. Threaded publications and further developments to improve data sharing lie on the horizon, and while there remains some work to do in defining best practices, such as sharing potentially sensitive data, Trials will be at the forefront of addressing these issues.
To mark Trials’ anniversary, the journal’s Editors-in-Chief reflect on how far the journal has gone in reaching its ambitious goals in an editorial that forms part of a thematic series marking the journal’s progress towards its ambitious aims over last five years, and defining its path for the many years to come.