Methodological sources of bias and suboptimal reporting contribute to irreproducibility in preclinical science and may negatively impact research translation. Randomization, blinding, sample size estimation, and considering sex as a biological variable are deemed crucial study design elements to maximize the quality and predictive value of preclinical experiments. In this article, F.D. Ramirez and colleagues examined the prevalence and temporal patterns of recommended study design element implementation in preclinical cardiovascular research. To do so, the authors reviewed all articles published over a 10-year period in 5 leading cardiovascular journals (Circulation; Circulation Research; Hypertension; Stroke; and Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology). They concluded that methodological shortcomings are still prevalent in preclinical cardiovascular research and have not substantially improved over the past 10 years. Resultant risks of bias and threats to study validity have the potential to hinder progress in cardiovascular medicine as preclinical research often precedes and informs clinical trials. Stroke research quality has uniquely improved in recent years, warranting a closer examination for interventions to model in other cardiovascular fields.
One result was particularly discouraging: the citations given to papers of sub-par experimental design. In this context, the authors found no relationship between citations and papers that either adhered to the guidelines or didn’t, indicating that scientists don’t distinguish between high quality and low quality science when citing each other’s publications.