Planned and ongoing research

Given their pre-eminent position in the evidence hierarchy (see ‘Understanding acupuncture clinical research: the evidence base and the problem of placebo acupuncture’) it is important that controlled trials are registered at their outset, so that negative results cannot conveniently be swept under the carpet. Various national and international organizations maintain such registers and their websites can be searched to locate research (in some cases not just restricted to controlled trials) involving particular interventions (such as acupuncture) and/or medical conditions. The information available usually includes status (e.g. recruiting, completed), timetable, principle researcher and a brief description of the aims and approach. Note that not all registers are as up to date, or as easy to search, as they should be. Some of the more important are listed here (others can be found by searching the internet for clinical trials registers).

While registers such as the NIHR one below, should include all NHS clinical trials, ClinicalTrials.gov, with its worldwide reach, is much larger but certainly wouldn’t cover all of the world’s clinical trials: no single database can do that. Registration is in some cases obligatory, eg for much publicly funded research, and there is a strong inducement to do so in that many journals will not publish without it.

Most acupuncture  trials in Western countries will be entered into one of the registers listed below. Other countries may have their own clinical trial registers but only recently has China, for example, started to register some of its trials on Western databases such as ClinicalTrials.gov.

ClinicalTrials.gov http://clinicaltrials.gov/: a register provided by the US National Institutes of Health, that covers publicly and privately funded trials worldwide

UK Clinical Research Network Study Portfolio http://public.ukcrn.org.uk/search/: for studies being undertaken in the NHS, that are supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

Clinical Research Network (CRN) in England. This replaced the National Research Register in 2007: its archive is still searchable

EU Clinical Trials Register www.clinicaltrialsregister.eu: for trials in EU countries

Current Controlled Trials www.controlled-trials.com: run by a commercial company as a public service. No restriction on nationality and has links to both the NHS and US government registers.

NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT) http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm: allows the public to search for NIH-funded research projects

PROSPERO http://www.crd.york.ac.uk/prospero/: NIHR funded international register of systematic reviews for which a protocol has been registered .