J Med Ethics 35:262-267 doi:10.1136/jme.2008.026815
  • Research ethics
    • Paper

Reporting of ethics-related methods in epidemiological research

  1. K H Jacobsen
  1. Dr K H Jacobsen, Department of Global & Community Health, College of Health and Human Services, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive 5B7, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA; kjacobse{at}
  • Received 23 July 2008
  • Revised 10 November 2008
  • Accepted 24 November 2008


Objective: This paper describes the variety of ways that information about ethics-related methods are included or not included in public health research articles.

Methods: Information about the ethics-related content of all articles published in nine highly-respected public health journals in 2006 was extracted.

Results: Of 989 primary analyses, 73% of the articles commented on ethics committee approval or exemption, 63% mentioned participant consent and 9% indicated whether or not inducement or compensation was given. 84% of articles mentioned a funding source, but fewer than 4% identified any potential conflict of interest. Reporting rates for committee review and consent were higher for experimental than for observational studies and were comparatively higher in studies conducted among potentially vulnerable populations like children and residents of low income countries.

Conclusions: More complete reporting would facilitate the design, evaluation and comparison of future research studies.


  • Competing interests: None.

  • Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.