An assessment of the extent to which the contents of PROSPERO records meet the systematic review protocol reporting items in PRISMA-P [version 1; peer review: 2 approved]

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PROSPERO is an international prospective register for systematic review protocols. Many of the registrations are the only available source of information about planned methods. This study investigated the extent to which records in PROSPERO contained the preferred reporting items for systematic review and meta-analysis protocols (PRISMA-P).
A random sample of 439 single entry PROSPERO records of reviews of health interventions registered in 2018 was identified. Using a piloted list of 19 PRISMA-P items, divided into 63 elements, two researchers independently assessed the registration records. Where the information was present or not applicable to the review a score of 1 was assigned. Overall scores were calculated and comparisons made by stage of review at registration, whether or not a meta-analysis was planned and whether or not funding/sponsorship was reported.
Some key methodological details such as eligibility criteria, were relatively frequently reported, but much of the information recommended in PRISMA-P was not stated in PROSPERO registrations. Considering the 19 items, the mean score was 4.8 (SD 1.8; median 4; range 2-11) and across all the assessed records only 25% (2081/8227) of the items were scored as reported. Considering the 63 elements, the mean score was 33.4 (SD 5.8; median 33; range 18-47) and overall, 53% (14,469/27,279) of the elements were assessed as reported. Reporting was more frequent for items required in PROSPERO than optional items. The planned comparisons showed no meaningful differences between groups.
PROSPERO provides reviewers with the opportunity to be transparent in their planned methods and demonstrate efforts to reduce bias. However, where the PROSPERO record is the only available source of a priori reporting, there is a significant shortfall in the items reported, compared to those recommended. This presents challenges in interpretation for those wishing to assess the validity of the final review.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

© 2020 Booth A et al.


  • systematic review methods
  • Protocol registration
  • Reporting guidelines

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