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5 things every ECR should know about Registered Reports

Author: Lindsay Morton, Senior Manager, Open Science Community Engagement, PLOS

Registered Reports support scientific rigor, help to create a more complete scientific record, and take some of the “risk” out of high-risk high-reward research.

For Early Career Researchers (ECRs) in particular, Registered Reports can be a powerful career-building tool. Read on to learn more about how you can use Registered Reports to develop a strong reputation and ensure a publication when you need it most.

What are Registered Reports?

Registered Reports are a type of scientific article that uses an inverted, two-stage peer review process. 

First, the authors prepare a formal study design, including a description of the methods and plans for data collection and analysis, and submit it for publication consideration at a journal. Peer review and revision of the study design takes place before the scientific investigation begins. Feedback focuses on the importance of the research question and the rigor of the approach.

If the proposed study is approved, the authors proceed with their investigation confident that the results will be published in the journal in the future. After the study is complete, the authors submit their full research article. So long as they have adhered to their original plans, and explained any changes, their article will go on to be published, no matter the results.

The benefits of Registered Reports:

  1. Registered Reports lead to higher-quality investigations
    Registered Reports are peer reviewed at the study-design phase before research begins, with a focus on the research question, methodology, and planned data analysis. That way, you get expert advice on the foundational considerations affecting scientific rigor while there is still time to do something about it—and that makes your research stronger. It’s a great way to learn.
  2. Registered Reports show integrity and increase trust in research
    Preregistering a study design allows researchers to publicly demonstrate the highest standards of research integrity, which helps to build a positive reputation—especially if you’re following a new or controversial investigative pathway.
  3. Registered Reports guarantee future publication
    Once your study design is peer reviewed and approved, you can proceed with confidence knowing that the final results will be publishable—even if the results are negative or inconclusive. That’s especially important when you’re first starting out—whether you’re applying for jobs or grants, or building your tenure file.
  4. Registered Reports don’t limit creativity
    Preregistration is only relevant to confirmatory research—that is investigations with a formal hypothesis. But even if you decide to preregister, you still have the freedom to conduct related exploratory research or add post-hoc analysis.
  5. Registered Reports help reduce the impact of bias
    Refocusing peer review on the study design limits opportunities for publication bias, confirmation bias, and impact bias to influence publication decisions. Registered Reports help ensure that well-designed, high-quality research is published, even when the results are negative or inconclusive. That’s good for authors, and for the whole scientific ecosystem.

Explore your options for publishing preregistered research at PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology.

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