An exploration of non-dissemination in qualitative research: viewpoints of editors and peer reviewers




Poster session 3


Tuesday 25 October 2016 - 10:30 to 11:00


All authors in correct order:

Toews I1, Glenton C2, Lewin S3, Berg RC4, Noyes J5, Booth A6, Marusic A7, Malicki M7, Meerpohl JJ8
1 Cochrane Germany, Germany
2 Global Health Unit, Knowledge Centre for the Health Services at the Norwegian Institute of Public HealthCochrane Germany, Norway
3 Global Health Unit, Knowledge Centre for the Health Services at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Health Systems Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council, Norway/South Africa
4 Social Research Unit, Knowledge Centre for the Health Services at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and Norway and the Department of Community Medicine, University of Tromso, Norway
5 School of Social Sciences, Bangor University, UK
6 School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, UK
7 Cochrane Croatia and Department of Research in Biomedicine and Health, University of Split School of Medicine, Croatia
8 Cochrane France, Centre de Recherche Épidémiologie et Statistique INSERM Sorbonne Paris Cité, France
Presenting author and contact person

Presenting author:

Ingrid Toews

Contact person:

Abstract text
Background: Qualitative evidence synthesis (QES) is increasingly used to inform decision making in health. To conduct a QES, primary studies relevant for answering the question should be retrieved. Dissemination bias, i.e. the systematic distortion of the phenomenon of interest due to selective dissemination of studies or their findings, might affect accessibility of studies and decrease the confidence we can have in findings from QES. Dissemination bias has not been adequately investigated for qualitative research, and is being explored as a possible 5th domain to include in the GRADE-CERQual (Confidence in the Evidence from Reviews of Qualitative research) approach. Objectives: Explore the possible extent of non-dissemination in qualitative research and investigate stakeholders’ views and experiences concerning dissemination of qualitative research. Methods: We conducted an online survey with closed and open-ended questions among stakeholders in qualitative research. Responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics and inductive thematic analysis.
Results: Of 1032 respondents 96.3% identified as researchers, 16% as editors and 83.8% as peer reviewers (multiple answers were possible). In free text responses, editors reported that they rejected a qualitative manuscript because it: described irrelevant knowledge, did not add new knowledge, or did not report new findings. Peer reviewers had recommended a rejection due to poor methodological and reporting quality, or where the analytical approach was unclear or lacking. Editors and peer reviewers also remarked that journal policies influenced the rejection of a qualitative manuscript. These factors included: restrictions on manuscript length, high quality standards for methods and reporting, and the journals’ aim to publish articles that would be highly cited. Conclusions: More research is needed on the extent of and reasons for non-dissemination in qualitative research, specifically the consequences of manuscript rejection by editors and peer reviewers. A better understanding of the impacts of non-dissemination will inform a decision on whether this component should be included in the GRADE CERQual approach.