New guideline aims to improve the standards of studies that explore cause and effect mechanisms in health research

A new guideline has been released today, aiming to help scientists publish their research accurately and transparently.

Published in JAMA, the AGReMA Statement (A Guideline for Reporting Mediation Analyses) helps scientists to report research that uses mediation analysis to understand why a particular outcome occurs by exploring possible causal relationships. For example, researchers looking at the effect of exercise on weight loss might find it is caused by increasing self-discipline.

To reduce the likelihood of inadequate and inaccurate reporting, researchers at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences (NDORMS) put together an international group of methodologists, statisticians, clinical trialists, epidemiologists, psychologists, clinicians, implementation scientists, evidence synthesis experts, and journal editors, to develop a guideline that provides detailed steps to help researchers present clear and transparent reports that will raise the standard of reporting of mediation analyses.

Hopin Lee, NHMRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow at NDORMS and lead author explained: “The use of mediation analysis has grown rapidly over the past 10 years across a wide range of disciplines. Our research has shown that their reporting has been poor and inconsistent, which makes it difficult to understand how the research was conducted and how reliable the findings are. We hope that the AGReMA Statement will help fix some of those issues.”

Professor James McAuley, Senior Research Scientist at NeuRA noted: “We used a rigorous evidence- and consensus-based process to develop AGReMA. We hope it will be a useful tool for many researchers conducting and reporting mediation analyses.”

“AGReMA is not tied to a particular disease condition or subspecialty of medicine,” said Hopin. “Our working group will liaise with journal editors and funding agencies to increase awareness and encourage its use. Our hope is that it will be endorsed by journal editors, peer reviewers, and authors and improve the accuracy, completeness and consistency in reporting mediation analyses.”

The development of AGReMA was supported by the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences, the Center for Effective Global Action, and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.