Assessment of Duplicate Publication of Chinese-Sponsored Randomized Clinical Trials | Medical Journals and Publishing | JAMA Network Open | JAMA Network
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    Original Investigation
    Medical Journals and Publishing
    December 3, 2020

    Assessment of Duplicate Publication of Chinese-Sponsored Randomized Clinical Trials

    Author Affiliations
    • 1Bloomberg School of Public Health, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
    • 2Welch Medical Library, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
    • 3Institute of Medical Information and Medical Library, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, China
    • 4School of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
    • 5Michigan Medicine, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
    JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(12):e2027104. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.27104
    Key Points

    Question  Are publication language (English and Chinese) and trial results associated with duplicate publication of randomized clinical trials conducted in mainland China?

    Findings  This cohort study included 470 Chinese-sponsored randomized clinical trials identified from clinical trial registries and published between 2008 and 2019. Approximately 12% of those randomized clinical trials have at least 1 duplicate publication; most are published in a different language than the main article. When main articles are published in Chinese, those with positive findings are more likely to have subsequent duplicate publication than those with negative findings.

    Meaning  Results of this study suggest that publishing randomized clinical trials in different languages may impede identification of duplicates and be associated with duplicate publication bias.

    Abstract

    Importance  Duplicate publications of randomized clinical trials are prevalent in the health-related literature. To date, few studies have assessed the interaction between duplicate publication and the language of the original publication.

    Objective  To assess the existence of duplicate publication and the extent to which duplicate publication is associated with the language of the original publication.

    Design, Setting, and Participants  In this retrospective cohort study, eligible randomized clinical trials were retrieved from trial registries, and bibliographic databases were searched to determine their publication status. Eligible randomized clinical trials were for drug interventions from January 1, 2008, to December 31, 2014. The search and analysis were conducted from March 1 to August 31, 2019. The trial registries were either primary registries recognized by the World Health Organization or the Drug Clinical Trial Registry Platform sponsored by the China Food and Drug Administration.

    Exposures  Individual randomized clinical trials with positive vs negative results.

    Main Outcomes and Measures  Journal articles were classified as main articles (determined by largest sample size and longest follow-up among all journal articles derived from that randomized clinical trial) and duplicates. The duplicates were classified into 4 types: (1) unreferenced subgroup analysis (article did not disclose itself as a subgroup analysis or reference its main article); (2) unreferenced republication (article did not disclose itself as a replicate of the main article or reference it); (3) unreferenced interim analysis (article did not disclose itself as an interim analysis or reference its main article); and (4) partial duplicate (article did not disclose its sharing a subset of participants with other articles or reference them).

    Results  Among 470 randomized clinical trials published by August 2019 as journal articles, 55 (11.7%) had 75 duplicates, of which 53 (70.7%) were cross-language duplicates. Of the 75 duplicates, 33 (44.0%) were unreferenced republications, 25 (33.3%) unreferenced subgroup analyses, 15 (20.0%) unreferenced interim analyses, and 2 (2.7%) partial duplicates. When the main article of a randomized clinical trial was published in Chinese, those with positive findings were 2.48 (95% CI, 1.08-5.71) times more likely to have subsequent duplicate publication than those with negative findings.

    Conclusions and Relevance  In this study, most duplicates were cross-language duplicates and the most common type was unreferenced republication of the main article. Duplicate publication bias exists when the main articles of randomized clinical trials were published in Chinese, potentially misleading readers and compromising journals and evidence synthesis.

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