4 principles journals can embrace to aid reproducibility of research

Cell Press’s STAR Methods format can help journals – and researchers – make sure their research is accessible and reproducible

By Simanta Buck - March 19, 2020  3 mins
STAR methods graphic
Cell Press’s STAR Methods format recommends “structured, transparent, accessible reporting” for the Methods section of research papers.

Scientific progress relies on researchers being able to reproduce previous studies to validate their own research. For research articles, the Methods section is the place readers go to access the “how” that underpins the “what” – and get the “the story behind the story.”

However, the Methods section has historically had irregularities in reporting standards and can lack the clarity and information necessary to replicate the experiment described. That’s why Cell Press has evolved its approach to Methods with the introduction of a standard format that’s now applied across all of its life science titles: STAR Methods.

STAR stands for Structured, Transparent, Accessible Reporting. The section can be accessed in both the XML and PDF versions of a paper’s record. The goal has been to ensure that reporting is easier for authors via structured guidelines and that replication is simpler for readers via an easy-to-navigate and comprehensive resource.

For societies and editors looking to ensure their journal content best informs the next generation of research, Methods has a few key characteristics applied to encourage transparency and reproducibility:

  • Living and breathing format: STAR Methods evolves as the discussion around reproducibility in the scientific community evolves, in alignment with recommendations made in the National Institutes of Health Principles and Guidelines for Reporting Preclinical Research and the Center for Open Science’s TOP Guidelines.
  • No restrictions on length: Authors are able to provide as much detail as they deem necessary, ensuring that those looking to build on the research have all the information they need to enable them to do so.
  • Easy reporting facilitate sharing: A Key Resources Table allows easy and comprehensive reporting of resources and reagents, as well as their source and identifiers. In addition, contact information is provided to promote the sharing of resources, and standardized sections more easily enable the full story to be told, including all critical details.
  • Innovative guides: An author’s guide provides salient information for those looking to understand requirements, and a webform enables authors to construct their Key Resource Tables more easily. Resources and tools for editors have also been engendered to ensure that others are able to apply the same guidelines.

STAR Methods has made introducing and enforcing important publication policies critical for reproducibility easier for authors and editors alike. At Cell Press, we envision it continuing to develop as a tool to empower clear reporting of methods in all of its primary journals. Testament to its positive impact, a bioRxiv paper examining 1.6 million PubMed Central articles and the way they’ve applied the NIH’s guidelines on rigor and reproducibility noted that since the introduction of STAR Methods, Cell “improved their antibody identifiability rates from 11.1% to 96.7% from 2014 to 2019.”

If you are interested in hearing more about STAR Methods, our publishing staff would be delighted to hear from you. You can email us at cpmethods@cell.com.


Written by

Simanta Buck

Written by

Simanta Buck

Simanta Buck is the Society Publisher at Cell Press, an imprint of Elsevier. She manages the relationship Cell Press has with its five society partners. She has spent 14 years at Cell Press and in that time has led various author hospitality initiatives, helped societies stay informed of various developments in the scientific publishing world and worked to support their journal strategies, written for the Cell Press Crosstalk blog, and co-led the production operations team. She enjoys writing, spending time outside, and being with her family.

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