Preregistering Research

The benefit of openness is that it provides the information required for other researchers to access your research and judge this for themselvesDr Hannah Fraser, Postdoctoral Researcher, Centre for Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis, The University of Melbourne.*

Preregistering research

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Preregistering a study or research project allows for greater transparency and reproducibility. It also lets others know you are working on a topic, reducing the duplication of research and opening up opportunities for collaboration.

A preregistration is a detailed description of a study plan, including hypotheses, data collection procedures, and an analysis plan. It is created and registered before the study has been undertaken, providing transparency to your research and ensuring reproducibility. Preregistrations are made open in a registry, where they are timestamped upon registration and cannot be changed, although revised versions can be added.

Prominent registries include:

  • OSF Registries. Run by the Centre for Open Science, OSF Registries is the most widely used repository for preregistering studies. Various templates are available for different kinds of preregistrations.
  • AsPredicted. AsPredicted is a preregistration platform created by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Credibility Lab, integrating with their ResearchBox platform.
  • A platform designed specifically for the preregistration of protocols and methods.
  • PreReg in Psychology. A long-running discipline-specific registry provided by the Leibniz Institute for Psychology (ZPID).
  • AEA RCT Registry. The American Economic Association’s Randomized Controlled Trials Registry is open to RCTs in economics, political science, and social science from anywhere in the world.

Preregistering research has tended to be quite discipline-specific, with most registrations coming from the health sciences, especially psychology, although other hypothesis-driven scientific and medical fields are seeing an uptake in the practice.

Preregistering clinical trials

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There are specific processes and requirements in place for the preregistration of clinical trials. Preregistering clinical trials makes important information about the trials available to participants before they register and ensures that trials are not duplicated unnecessarily.

Many countries mandate the preregistration of clinical trials. In Australia, we require the preregistration of certain clinical trials involving human participants (National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, 2007, updated 2018).

Responsibility for preregistration typically falls on the clinical trial’s sponsor. Since clinical trial registrations should be available prior to the enrolment of the first participant, it is best to complete preregistration at least two months before recruiting, as this process can take time.

Australia’s primary clinical trial registry is the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR), which feeds records into the World Health Organisation’s International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP). For more information, see the Government’s Australian Clinical Trials website.

At the University of Melbourne, clinical trials support is available through the Methods and Implementation Support for Clinical and Health research hub (MISCH).

Registered Reports

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When a preregistration or study design is submitted to an academic journal for peer review, it becomes part of a Registered Report.

If the study design is accepted in this initial peer review stage – during which it may be revised in response to feedback – the journal will offer in-principle acceptance of the final research article. The peer-reviewed study design might be published in the journal, uploaded to a registry, or embargoed until the article is published. The researcher then collects and analyses their data, and writes up their final report – a research article that includes the introduction and methods already reviewed, plus the new results, discussion, and conclusion. This research article undergoes peer review upon submission, mostly to ensure it has not deviated from the initial study design, before being published in the journal.​

Diagram showing peer review process for Registered Reports, with stage 1 after the study is deigned, and stage 2 after the report is written.

Registered Reports were proposed in 2012 to counter publication bias and questionable research practices. Over 300 journals now publish Registered Reports, either regularly or in special issues. For more information, see the Centre for Open Science's Registered Reports website.

Here is an example of a Registered Report in PLOS ONE, an open access journal that started publishing registered reports in 2020:

Further support

See the Open Research Guide for more information on how to register a study, trial, or report.

Contact the Scholarly Communications team for more information and support in preregistering your research.

* ​Read more about Dr Hannah Fraser's experience with open research: "How to produce robust, reliable and open research" (21/10/2021).

Preregistered badge and Registered Report workflow diagram by Centre for Open Science, licensed under CC BY-ND 4.0.

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