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Partnering with CRUK to improve quality and reproducibility in cancer research through preregistration

This year, two Cancer Research UK (CRUK) award programs include a little something extra in their spring grant cycles. The funder has partnered with a consortium of 13 journals publishing preregistered research, including PLOS Biology and PLOS ONE, to help grantees submit and receive a publication decision earlier in the process.

What’s preregistration?

Preregistration is the practice of depositing a study design with a repository (and, optionally, submitting it for peer review at a journal) before experimentation and data collection begin. Journal peer review focuses on the importance of the research question and the rigor of the methodology and analytical approach with the goal of producing the strongest possible work. Successful submissions receive a provisional acceptance promising to publish the resulting research article when the investigation is completed whatever the results, provided the authors adhere to their study design. 

The benefits of preregistration for the scientific system in general are potentially enormous, and include: 

  • improvements in study design, since review takes place early in the research lifecycle, when the plan can be modified
  • more rigorous research
  • reduced bias in reporting and editorial decision-making
  • increased efficiency, and 
  • a more complete scientific record that includes negative and null results as a matter of course

For individual authors, preregistration provides a faster, more streamlined review process, with a virtual guarantee of future publication—as well as acknowledgement of a vital part of the research process that often goes unnoticed.

How does the preregistered research funding partnership work?

Now, when cancer researchers receive a project award from CRUK in either the early detection and diagnosis or prevention and population research programs, they’ll also be able to opt-in receive a list of participating journals where they can submit a study design that arises from their funded awards for consideration. With the consent of the reviewers, CRUK will provide the authors’ chosen journal with names and contact details of the grant reviewers, to help ensure a smooth and efficient review. Being familiar with the work, the grant reviewers are likely to have constructive feedback beyond what was provided during the funding review. For authors based at many UK institutions, the cost of publication may be covered through a PLOS institutional partnership.

Preregistered publication options at PLOS

PLOS Biology and PLOS ONE both publish preregistered research, but each journal takes a slightly different approach. Learn which is right for your study.

  • At PLOS ONE, editorial assessment takes place in two phases, and results in two linked publications, each with its own DOI: a Registered Report Protocol, consisting of study design, rationale, timeline, proposed methodology for data collection and analysis; and a Registered Report, describing the completed research investigation and results.
  • PLOS Biology also conducts peer review in two stages, but publishes a single Preregistered Research Article, once the work has been fully completed. Authors submit a Stage 1 protocol including the hypothesis, methodology materials and methods sections. Once the study concludes, the authors add the results and discussion to their approved Stage 1 protocol to create a single, integrated Preregistered Research Article.

Getting started

Researchers based in the UK can submit applications for the Early Detection and Diagnosis Project Award or the Prevention and Population Research Project Award through June 2022. Researchers working in any field within journal scope are welcome to submit preregistered research directly to PLOS Biology or PLOS ONE at any time.

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