Written by Lindsay Morton. Preregistration is the practice of formally registering a study design before experimentation and data collection begin.
Preregistration is the practice of formally depositing a study design in a repository—and, optionally, submitting it for peer review at a journal—before conducting a scientific investigation.
Benefits of preregistration
Depositing your study design in a repository is a way of holding yourself to the highest standards of research integrity, while at the same time ensuring that your work will be reproducible in the future. Submitting your study design to a journal brings two additional benefits: expert peer review feedback to ensure the best possible methodological and analytical approach, and an editorial decision based solely on the quality of the research and the important of the research question–not the results.
At PLOS, we see preregistration as an important step towards a more open and transparent peer review process – one that brings with it tremendous benefits for both individual authors and the broader scientific community.
Depositing a study design before experimentation and data collection showcases the underlying validity of the research.
Safely storing a detailed study design in a repository helps ensure that the resulting work will be reproducible, even years in the future—even if you lose files, move to a different institution, or change the focus of your research, your methods are safe.
When peer review takes place before you conduct your investigation, the focus of review shifts from evaluating journal fit and significance of advance to actionable, productive feedback aimed at ensuring the best study design possible. Reviewers will no longer request additional experiments after your article is complete!
Increased likelihood of acceptance
Publishing your study design or obtaining a provisional accept decision from a journal helps ensure that your research outcomes will go on to be publishable, even if you disprove your hypotheses.
A more complete scientific record
Editorial decision-making driven by the importance of the research question and the rigor of the study design helps to reduce publication bias, confirmation bias, and impact bias to influence the scientific record. That means a more complete and accurate scientific record, and more efficient use of resources system-wide.
Keeps your options open
Choosing to preregister a confirmatory study doesn’t prevent you from conducting related exploratory research or post-hoc analysis. You reap the benefits of increased trust and reproducibility, with no risks or limitations to your future research.
In their new preregistered research article, “The effect of apathy and compulsivity on planning and stopping in sequential decision-making,” Jacqueline Scholl and Nils Kolling..
Open Access has provided us the opportunity—and the responsibility—to think about how scientific inquiry and discoveries are presented to a broader community.
Preregistration at PLOS
Two PLOS journals — PLOS Biology and PLOS ONE — offer options for the peer review and publication of preregistered research. Each journal takes a slightly different approach, but both enable the proposed research to be evaluated and recorded before the full study is carried out.
Preregistered Research Articles
Accepted Authors submit a Stage 1 protocol including the the hypothesis and the material and methods sections, which is also deposited in a repository.
Authors submit a Registered Report Protocol describing the rationale, methodology and any approvals needed for the work.
The study design undergoes peer review and revision before experimentation and data collection can begin.
Approved protocols are accepted in-principle. Authors can choose whether to make their protocol public on the repository website.
Accepted protocols are published in the journal immediately! Authors also receive an in-principle accept for the future article reporting the results of the study.
Researchers execute the study, collect data, and analyze the results. Once the study is complete…
Authors add results and discussion to their previously approved Stage 1 protocol to create a single, integrated Preregistered Research Article.
Authors submit a Registered Report–a full research article describing the study and its findings.
The new sections undergo peer review and revision.
This new article undergoes peer review and revision.
The final article is published in the journal!
The new article is published in the journal! The two publication components (protocol and article) are linked.
Partnering to prove quality and reproducibility
PLOS Biology and PLOS ONE are proud to be among the 13-journals participating in a trial with CRUK in 2022.
When cancer researchers receive a grant from CRUK in either the early detection and diagnosis or prevention and population research programs, they can also opt-in receive a list of participating journals where they can submit a study design that arises from their approved funding application for publication consideration. With the consent of the grant reviewers, CRUK will provide the authors’ chosen journal with names and contact details of the reviewers, to help ensure a smooth and efficient review of the preregistered study.