Cell Press Transforms Article Methods Section to Improve Transparency and Accessibility

    Amid discussions around scientific reproducibility, the leading biomedical journal Cell will introduce a redesigned methods section to help authors clearly communicate how experiments are conducted. The first papers using Structured, Transparent, Accessible Reporting (STAR) Methods, which promotes guidelines encouraged by reagent labeling and animal experimentation initiatives, appear in Cell on August 25. The format will then be adopted by other Cell Press journals over the next year, starting with Cell Systems in the fall.

    STAR Methods promotes rigor and robustness with an intuitive, consistent framework that integrates seamlessly into the scientific information flow—making reporting easier for the author and replication easier for the reader. The focal point is the “Key Resources Table,” which offers an overview of the key reagents and resources (e.g., antibodies, animal models, or software) used to produce the results in the paper.

    “With this new format, we shed our old name ‘Experimental Procedures’ and adopt the new name of ‘STAR Methods: Structured, Transparent, Accessible Reporting.’ The name not only describes the aims of our redesign, but it also emphasizes our larger goal of highlighting the importance of the methods section in our papers,” says Emilie Marcus, PhD, CEO of Cell Press and Editor-in-Chief of Cell. “We are emboldened by the opportunity to be pioneers, and to extend what we do best—publishing the highest quality of science—to the methods section”

    Furthermore, the presentation and narrative of the methods section will no longer vary from paper to paper; standardized headings will help researchers communicate what information is universally important. Such structuring helps authors to report key information that aligns with reporting guidelines advocated by the NIH Rigor and Reproducibility Initiative, the Resource Identification Initiative, and ARRIVE guidelines on animal experimentation.

    “With reproducibility, everyone is part of the problem and everyone needs to be part of the solution,” says Anita Bandrowski, PhD, head of the Resource Identification Initiative, which helps scientists create common IDs for research materials and tools. “One of the low-hanging fruits is more sufficient reporting, and STAR Methods is a fantastic first step that signals to the community that Cell Press is listening and wants to play a part in solving the problem.”

    STAR Methods is the first step in larger Cell Press and Elsevier initiatives on reproducibility aimed to help empower methods and meet the call for robust and rigorous reporting while accommodating the increasing diversity of how scientists do their work.