Research transparency is central to ethical research practice. Research studies should be registered and the results made public, so that participants are protected from unnecessary research and patients benefit from improved outcomes and care informed by high quality studies.
Research transparency has four key elements:
- registering research
- making the results of research
- letting research participants know
about the results of the research
- making data from studies available
for further research.
When applying for approval for their study, we expect researchers to have a plan for meeting ethical standards in research transparency. For clinical trials, our Research Ethics Committees (RECs) only give a favourable opinion on the condition that the trial is registered on a public database.
Promoting research transparency
Despite improvements in recent years, some studies are not registered and the results of many studies are not reported publicly. We want to see positive change and are working hard to help make that change happen.
We host the Transparency Forum, which brings together a wide range of stakeholders who are committed to improving research transparency. Members of forum range from representatives of funders, research registries, ethics committees, clinical research organisations, publishers and others who are working to make sure that research is publicly registered, the results are made public and data is shared with other researchers.
We have signed the AllTrials petition calling for the results of all clinical trials to be reported.
In late 2018, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee set the HRA a challenge to tackle poor practice in registration and in making research results public. We have accepted that challenge.
During 2019, we are reviewing our approach to research transparency and developing a new strategy. We have formed an expert group, chaired by Professor Andrew George, to help us with that review and will be seeking feedback and ideas from researchers, patients and the public this summer.
Publishing information about research
We publish details of all research reviewed by REC in the UK in the research summaries section of our website. This includes information about the planned research, a summary of the research as submitted to the REC and the REC’s opinion.
We also publish details of all applications approved by the Confidentiality Advisory Group (CAG) in the CAG registry. This contains summary information about the activity, details of the identifiers approved and applicant contact details.
Being clear about responsibilities
The UK Policy Framework for Health and Social Care Research sets out the key responsibilities for researchers, sponsors and funders for all aspects of research, including transparency. The Transparency: responsibilities section gives more information about what we expect of researchers.