Assessment of research quality in major infertility journals

Approximately 90% of the publications in the top five journals are neither systematic reviews nor randomized, controlled trials. Although the risk of bias was low, only 23% had a trial registration.

Demian Glujovsky, M.D., M.S.C., Barbara Riestra, M.D., Andrea Coscia, M.D., Carolina Boggino, M.D., Daniel Comande, B.Sc., Agustín Ciapponi, M.D., M.S.C.

Volume 98, Issue 6, Pages 1539-1543, December 2012


To evaluate the level of evidence published in infertility journals with highest impact factor.

Systematic review. We searched in PubMed identifying potential systematic reviews with meta-analysis (SRs) and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) between 2006 and 2010 in the five fertility journals with highest impact factor.

Academic institution.



Main outcomes:
Number and proportion of potential SRs and RCTs published in 2006-2011, and quality assessment of real RCTs published in 2010.

Among evaluated articles, 1.5% and 6.8% were SRs and RCTs. Fertility and Sterility has been the journal with more potential SRs and RCTs and Human Reproduction Update was the only one with an increasing trend in the number of potential SRs (from 5.3% in 2006 to 24.4% in 2011). Among confirmed RCTs, for each quality assessment item, between 50% and 85% were classified as low risk of bias and the most common high risk of bias was related to allocation concealment. Only 23% had a trial registration, which were associated to higher quality assessment classifications. Only 10% of RCTs reported pharmaceutical industry funding.

This is the first study assessing the methodological quality of publications in topfive fertility journals. More than 90% of all the publications were neither SRs nor RCTs. It is remarkable that the risk of bias was generally low. Enhancing trial registration and funding source statements represent opportunities to improve the quality of reporting. We hope this information is useful to researchers, Editorial Boards and clinicians, moving forward with research in our field.

  • NicoGarrido

    for your nice work Dr Glujovsky.

    It is a new and interesting approach to test the “health” or quality of infertility research.

    If registered RCTs and SRs are the paradigm of research, then it seems our scientific “health” needs to be improved.

    Do you have any idea about the % of RCTs and some of the other indicators evaluated in
    other medical specialties, for instance cancer, neurology, etc..?

    It could be interesting the comparison of the overall quality of the evidences between


  • Micah Hill

    Thank you for the very nice research on the state of RCTs and systematic reviews in our major journals. I found the information fascinating. I was curious why only 23% of RCT in trials in 2010 were registered, as I thought this was now a requirement for publication. Did these trials generally start enrollment prior to 2004? Or are journals not always enforcing this as a requirement?

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