Systematic review authors are expected to collect and report the funding of included primary studies, and to report on their own funding when publishing their reviews. A recent Cochrane methods systematic review found that industry-sponsored studies were more likely than non-industry sponsored studies to report favorable efficacy results and favorable conclusions (relative incidence increased by 27% and 34%, respectively).
The objectives of this study were: 1) to assess the reporting of funding by original research (systematic reviews and primary studies) addressing health policy and systems research; and 2) to assess the policies on the reporting of funding of journals publishing on health policy and systems research.
We conducted two cross-sectional surveys respectively for papers addressing health policy and systems research (HPSR) and journals publishing on HPSR. We included both primary studies and systematic reviews. Teams of two review authors selected studies and abstracted data in duplicate and independently. They resolved disagreements through discussion, or with the help of a third review author if needed. We conducted descriptive analyses and a regression analysis to investigate the association between reporting of funding by papers and the journal’s characteristics.
We included 400 studies (200 systematic reviews and 200 primary studies) that were published in 197 journals. About one-third of the systematic reviews and primary studies in HPSR did not report on funding. Only 15% of systematic reviews and 7% of primary studies reported on the role of the funder in the study. Higher impact factor was associated with better reporting of funding in studies (odds ratio 1.16, 95% confidence interval 1.00 to 1.35). Although the majority of HPSR journals (95%) required reporting of the source of funding, one-third of these journals did not require reporting of the role of the funder.
Although the majority of journals publishing on HPSR require the reporting of funding, more than a quarter of papers addressing HPSR (including both primary studies and systematic reviews) did not report on the funding source. Journals should better implement their funding policies to improve the reporting of research funding.
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