Dietary supplement product quality is an appropriate subject for both studies and publications, but the utility of such publications is much diminished when the analytical methodology used to perform the reported measurements is not described in detail. The “Methods” section of the article by Gordon et al1 is devoid of such information. Details such as sample preparation prior to analysis, chromatographic conditions, and reproducibility (reliability) of the method are minimum requirements when publishing analytical results.2 If publication of detailed methods is deemed redundant because they have been published previously, citation of the method description from the previous report is acceptable. Similarly, journal space limitations may prevent publication of method details, but supplementary material can be made available online. Gordon et al1 did not explicitly cite any articles regarding methods, and there appeared to been no supplementary material for this work. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that deficiencies of this sort have appeared in the biomedical literature. A letter by Leung et al3 reported iodine content of prenatal multivitamin products but failed to describe the analytical methods used in the study. Method details were provided in a reply4 to a letter to the editor by Betz and Wise,5 but this sort of dialogue would be unnecessary were journal peer reviewers and editors more aware of the issue. At a minimum, a detailed description of the methods gives the reader a tool for evaluating the reliability of the reported data. The results of the study may well be accurate, but the authors have not given readers the tools to evaluate their veracity. In addition, a major element of scientific inquiry is reproducibility. A detailed description of the experimental method is at the heart of reproducibility and should be mandatory in all original research publications.
Betz JM. Monacolin Levels in Red Yeast Rice: Methodological Questions. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(10):941-954. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2011.193