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Registered Reports editor guidelines

Essential Registered Reports best practices for editors, supporting a credible and accountable scientific community.


What are Registered Reports?

Registered Reports reform peer review by introducing a two-stage process. In this format, expert assessment (before and after authors undertake their experiments) aims to produce more reliable results by enhancing the experimental design. Authors submit a stage I manuscript before conducting experiments, including an introduction, hypothesis, methods, proposed analyses, and applicable research ethics. Accepted manuscripts are published as a stage I article on ScienceDirect. This comes with an "in principle acceptance (IPA)" for the guaranteed publication of the stage II manuscript, provided the protocol was adhered to, and conclusions are supported by the data, even if the hypothesis isn't confirmed.

Here are some guidelines for editors who are new to handling Registered Reports:

Editorial guidance

  • Familiarize yourself with the format: Understand the key principles of Registered Reports, including their focus on methodological rigor, pre-registration of hypotheses, and pre-specified data analysis plans. This will help you evaluate submissions and guide reviewers effectively.

  • Reviewer selection: Choose reviewers with experience in the specific research area, as well as familiarity with the Registered Reports format, if possible. Reviewers should be able to assess the methodological rigor, research question, and proposed analyses. You can also consider inviting reviewers with expertise in research design, statistics, or methodology in addition to content-area experts.

  • Provide clear instructions to reviewers: Ensure reviewers understand the two-stage review process and their specific responsibilities at each stage. For stage I, reviewers should focus on the quality of the research question, the strength and feasibility of the study design, and the appropriateness of the proposed analyses. For stage II, reviewers should assess whether the research was conducted according to the approved protocol and whether the conclusions are well supported by the data. If the authors deviated from the protocol, this should have been checked with the handling editor of the journal. NB reviewers have their own guidelines.

  • Stage I decision making: After receiving reviewer feedback, evaluate whether the proposed study meets the standards of rigor, feasibility, relevance of the proposed question to the field, and transparency required for Registered Reports. In making your decision, consider the reviewers' recommendations, and the potential for the study to contribute to the literature.

  • Agreeing on timelines with authors: Establishing clear timelines for both stages of the Registered Reports process is crucial for ensuring a smooth and efficient review process. Communicate with authors early on to set realistic expectations for the time it will take to complete each stage of the review process and to address any potential delays. For stage I, inform authors about the expected time frame for initial review and decision making, as well as any additional time needed for revisions or resubmissions. For stage II, establish a timeline for the submission of the completed research, considering the nature of the study and any challenges that may arise during data collection or analysis. Encourage authors to notify the editorial team of any unforeseen delays or issues that may impact the agreed-upon timeline or methods. By setting clear expectations and maintaining open communication, editors can help authors effectively plan and manage their research projects, ultimately promoting timely and high-quality Registered Reports submissions.

  • Stage II format: The stage II manuscript should adhere to the following guidelines:

    • The title should be submitted in the following format: “Registered Report - stage II: [Insert same title as stage I]”

    • The spirit of the introduction must remain the same as the original stage I introduction, although the exact wording may be changed to include references relevant to the completed research or to correct typographic mistakes. If the authors submit the introduction unchanged, it should be cited using the following format: “This study is part of a Registered Report. The stage I article was authored by [insert first author name] et. al. [insert reference].”

    • The methods should include a reference to the stage I Registered Report protocol, and a summary of the methods described in stage I and a table listing any deviations from the agreed materials and methods if applicable.

  • Stage II decision making: Once the research is completed, decide whether the manuscript should be sent back to the original reviewers or whether you or the editor can make the decision without additional review. This decision may be based on the extent to which the authors followed the approved protocol and the clarity of the reported results. If major deviations from the protocol have occurred, or if the authors introduce new analyses or interpretations, it will likely be necessary to send the manuscript back to the original reviewers for further evaluation.

  • Similarity Check results stage II: Carefully assess the Similarity Check results (iThenticate) report for the stage II manuscript, as there may be a significant amount of (justified) overlap with the stage I article. To assess the “real” similarity percentage of the stage II manuscript, make sure the exclude the stage I article from the top sources list on the right-hand side of the report if it indeed shows up here.

  • Provide feedback to authors: Throughout the process, maintain clear communication with the authors and provide constructive feedback on their submission. Encourage transparency, openness, and adherence to the approved protocol.

By following these guidelines, editors can help ensure the successful implementation of Registered Reports in their journals and contribute to improving the quality and transparency of scientific research.

For author and reviewer guidelines, please visit: