Medical research reports and publication practice in biomedicine have been under increased scrutiny over the last decades. Selective reporting of study results and related publication bias has been confirmed in several empirical studies in different disciplines and settings. Further, there is continued concern regarding conflicts of interest that are not disclosed by article authors  and cases of scientific misconduct. Non-reporting of study results has been identified also in pediatric research. For instance, significant differences in the risk-benefit profile of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in children were found in a meta-analysis of studies published in peer-reviewed journals and unpublished data. The data suggesting that SSRIs are linked to an increased risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts had not been published.
In the past, several recommendations have been proposed to improve the reporting and publication practice in biomedicine: First, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) published the "Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts submitted to Biomedical Journals". This widely used guideline is currently endorsed by over 700 journals and covers issues such as ethical conduct and reporting of biomedical research, preparation and publishing of manuscripts and editorial policies. Second, the problem of publication bias and selective outcome reporting has been widely analyzed over the last 15 years. Registration of clinical trials and studies of other types prior to patient enrollment has been advocated as an important first step to tackle this problem. Third, authors but also journal editors and reviewers might have financial ties or personal interests in conflict with an article being submitted for publication[8, 9]. The debate about this problem has led journals to require disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. Recently, a uniform conflict of interest disclosure form was proposed jointly by major medical journals. Finally, published reporting guidelines such as the CONSORT Statement provide guidance to authors and aim at improving the completeness and accuracy of publications[11, 12]. Further, they facilitate the critical appraisal by readers. Endorsement and implementation of these reporting guidelines has been studied for general medicine journals [13, 14] but less so for journals in specialties such as pediatrics.
Journals and their editors play a key role in promoting and ensuring transparency in biomedical publishing. Previously, we focused on pediatric journals indexed in the Journal Citation Report and found that the advice given to authors regarding the above mentioned four domains was moderate to low. Reflecting these findings, we wondered whether the low uptake might be due to hesitation or even reluctance of editors of these journals to experiment with editorial procedures.
Open-access electronic publishing has been associated with a number of editorial innovations aiming at improved access to and transparency of research results[16, 17]. The new model was a response to the dilemma between increasing prices for journal subscriptions on one side and decreasing resources of academic institutions to finance access to the scientific literature. Open Access publications are generally made available online to anyone anywhere with no charges for access while recovering costs by charging publication fees from authors. Open Access journals usually provide peer review like journals following the conventional publishing model. It has been argued that electronic Open Access publishing does not change significantly content and quality of research articles but improves access to research findings.
We wondered whether journals adopting this new publication model take up recommendations which aim to ensure publication of research results in an unbiased and transparent manner. We therefore set out to elucidate the coverage of the four domains Uniform Requirements, trial registration, conflicts of interest and reporting guidelines in Open Access pediatric journals. We then compared our results with findings from "conventional" JCR-indexed pediatric journals analyzed earlier.