Background: Open access (OA) journals, which have no access restrictions to their content, but usually charge authors a publication fee, are becoming a publication standard for health research. There is evidence that the quality and transparency of research reporting for some research fields in OA journals is comparable to traditional subscription journals, which charge a fee for access to articles.
Objectives: We assessed the completeness of results reporting in abstracts about randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published in subscription and open access journals.
Methods: The sample included all randomised controlled trial abstracts published in subscription journals (NEJM, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, Lancet) and open access journals (BioMedCentral series and PLOS journals) from January to December 2016, using the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) Checklist for Abstracts.
Results: Subscription journals had more complete reporting than OA journals for the items in Methods ('randomization' 39% versus 4%, respectively; P < 0.001), Results ('numbers analysed' 69% versus 20%, P < 0.001; 'outcomes' 43% versus 15%, P = 0.002; 'harms' 77% versus 19%, P < 0.001), trial registration (100% versus 83%, P = 0.003) and funding (73% versus 3 %, P < 0.001).
Conclusions: RCTs abstracts published in subscription medical journals have a higher completeness of reporting than abstracts published in OA journals. OA journals should take appropriate measures to ensure that published articles contain adequate detail to facilitate understanding and quality appraisal of research reports.
Patient or healthcare consumer involvement: In order to achieve better understanding of the published data, patients should be included in any future upgrading CONSORT Checklist for Abstracts. It is very important to have detail reporting, both in subscription and in OA medical journals, because the article abstract may be the only source of health information for consumers.