Health technology assessment (HTA) bodies often rely heavily upon evidence from peer-review publications to inform their recommendations. Since journal editors attitudes likely influence the types of study designs that are accepted through the peer-review process and on to publication, journal editors serve as gatekeepers to translation of evidence, including real word evidence (RWE), into practice. Given past skepticism of RWE study designs, journal editors perceptions of and possible biases toward RWE are important to understand as they may impact dissemination and, therefore, uptake of research findings. The objective of this study was to examine current views of journal editors regarding the: (i) value of RWE studies and (ii) challenges editors face in managing, reviewing, and publishing RWE manuscripts.
Journal editors representing general medicine (GM), specialty medicine (SM), health policy/services research (HSR) were invited to participate in a telephone interview, a survey, and an in-person, roundtable discussion.
In total, seventy-nine journals were approached, resulting in: 15 interviews (GM = 2; SM = 5; HSR = 8), 17 survey responses (GM = 2; SM = 6; HSR = 9) and 8 roundtable participants. RWE was viewed favorably by interviewed editors (n = 15). Characteristics of high-quality RWE manuscripts included: research question novelty/relevance, rigorous methodology, alignment of data with question, and the extent data-source advantages are optimized. Similar manuscript review processes and challenges were voiced for RWE and other study designs. HSR editors were more likely than SM or GM editors to participate, potentially indicating these researchers are more comfortable or interested in RWE. A possible study limitation was that editors favorable toward RWE may have been more likley to participate.
Peer-review journal editors appear to have favorable views regarding RWE studies and can be accelerators to dissemination of RWE findings. However, they do report that studies and processes could be improved. One suggested improvement included a checklist for editors to speed rejections and improve communications with authors.