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Research Guidelines

AHA/ASA Journals are committed to publishing high-quality research and upholding accepted standards of methodological rigor, reproducibility, and transparency.

The following are provided as general guidelines for manuscripts submitted to AHA/ASA journals. Authors are encouraged to review the individual journal Author Instructions when submitting a manuscript to a specific journal.

Research & Reporting Guidelines

Manuscripts submitted to AHA/ASA journals should conform to the following guidelines as appropriate:

For all other study designs, use of Equator Network reporting guidelines is optional but strongly encouraged. If you are not sure which guideline to use, you may use the Good Reports tool to help you decide.

In addition, during submission, authors reporting preclinical animal research will need to complete a checklist aimed at enhancing rigor, transparency, and reproducibility. Additional information is available during submission and in individual journal Instructions for Authors.

Guidelines for Clinical Research and Trials

Clinical trial reports should comply with the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) and include a flow diagram presenting the enrollment, intervention allocation, follow-up, and data analysis with number of subjects for each. Please also refer specifically to the CONSORT Checklist of items to include when reporting a randomized clinical trial.

Demographic information, including sex and race/ethnicity, should be reported when appropriate in describing the outcomes of epidemiologic analyses or clinical trials, or specifically state that no sex-based or race/ethnicity-based differences were present.

Trial Registration

In accordance with the Clinical Trial Registration Statement from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (Circulation. 2005;111:1337 and http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/NEJMe078110), all clinical trials in AHA/ASA journals must be registered in a public trials registry at or before the onset of participant enrollment. This requirement applies to all clinical trials that begin enrollment after July 1, 2005 and applies to all clinical trials, including Phase 1 studies. Any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related intervention(s) to evaluate the effects on health outcomes is considered a clinical trial. The special report, The Proposed Rule for U.S. Clinical Trial Registration and Results Submission published in The New England Journal of Medicine, can be consulted for guidance. Those who are uncertain whether their trial meets the ICMJE definition of a clinical trial should err on the side of registration if they wish to seek publication.

The registry must be accessible to the public at no charge, searchable, open to all prospective registrants, and managed by a not-for-profit organization. The registry must include the following information: a unique identifying number, a statement of the intervention(s), study hypothesis, definition of primary and secondary outcome measurements, eligibility criteria, target number of subjects, funding source, contact information for the principal investigator, and key dates (registration date, start date, and completion date).

The registry sponsored by the United States National Library of Medicine (http://www.clinicaltrials.gov) meets these requirements and is recommended by the editors.

Other registries are acceptable if they meet these requirements. In addition to http://www.clinicaltrials.gov, the following registries are recommended by the ICMJE:

  1. http://isrctn.org
  2. http://www.umin.ac.jp/ctr/index/htm/
  3. http://www.anzctr.org.au/Default.aspx
  4. http://www.trialregister.nl/trialreg/index.asp

In accordance with the ICMJE’s recommendation, AHA Journals will also accept registration of clinical trials in any of the primary registers that participate in the World Health Organization’s International Clinical Trial Registry Platform. Primary registers are WHO-selected registers managed by not-for-profit entities that will accept registrations for any interventional trials, delete duplicate entries from their own register, and provide data directly to the WHO. Please note that registration in any WHO partner registers is insufficient.

The authors will be requested to provide the exact URL and unique identification number for the trial registration at the time of submission. Since this information will be published, we ask that you include the phrase “Clinical Trial Registration Information” at the end of the abstract. Please list the URL, as well as the unique identifier, for the publicly accessible web site on which the trial is registered in this section.

Results posted in the same clinical trials registry in which the primary registration resides will not be considered prior publication if they are presented in the form of a brief abstract (≤500 words) or a table.

Independent Data Access and Analysis

It is preferable for investigators to have direct access to the primary data from a clinical trial (raw and derived datasets) for analysis and reporting of trial results. Alternatively, a party or organization independent from the trial sponsor with access to the primary data may provide data analyses. It is recognized that for logistical reasons these options may not be possible in all instances. At a minimum, the authors should have the ability to query any aspect of the data either directly or through independent analysis.

A specific comment in the manuscript is required attesting that one author had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for its integrity and the data analysis.

The Editors reserve the right to ask for additional information from the corresponding author regarding measures that were taken to minimize bias and verify the integrity of the primary data and any analyses performed.

Ethical Approval and Informed Consent

For research involving human participants, authors should adhere to the recommendations of the ICMJE for Protection of Research Participants.

Authors must include in the Methods section of their submission a statement indicating that the study was approved by an institutional review board along with the name of the IRB, and that the participants gave written informed consent (or that no informed consent was required). Documentary evidence of institutional review and participant consent must be supplied if requested.

When publishing identifiable images from human research participants, authors must include a statement in the published paper affirming that they have obtained informed consent for publication of the images. Images may be cropped to remove nonessential identifying details and protect patient anonymity but should not be otherwise altered.

Guidelines for Animal Research

All studies in animals should be conducted in accordance with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals, or the equivalent, and must indicate that the experimental protocols were approved by the institutional animal care and use committee.

For animals used in experiments, state the species, strain, sex, sources, number used, and other pertinent descriptive characteristics. For genetically modified animals, wildtype controls including background and back-crossing must be defined. Stock numbers should be supplied for commercial suppliers.

When describing surgical procedures on animals, identify the preanesthetic and anesthetic agents used and state the amount or concentration and the route and frequency of administration for each. The use of paralytic agents, such as curare or succinylcholine, is not an acceptable substitute for anesthetics. For other invasive procedures on animals, report the analgesic or tranquilizing drugs used. If none were used, provide justification for such exclusion.

Manuscripts reporting on animal research are expected to adhere to the ARRIVE guidelines (https://arriveguidelines.org/). Authors must report methods for randomization, allocation concealment, blinding, and other details as appropriate.  

Guidelines for Human Phenotype-Genotype Association or Linkage Studies

  1. Reporting issues:
    1. Report process for selecting genes and SNPs.
    2. Report Hardy-Weinberg statistics or p-values and method of calculating same.
    3. Refer to existing public domain websites for the Human Gene Ontology name and the rs number for SNPs.
    4. Describe genotyping methods. If numerous primers have been used, please include them in an online supplement.
  2. False positive and false negative concerns. Given well-described problems with both false positive and false negative associations, phenotype-genotype association studies should meet some or all of the criteria below:
    1. Phenotype is clearly defined, is heritable, and if a quantitative phenotype is reported, reproducibility data are provided or referenced.
    2. The sample size is adequate to detect a SNP or haplotype with a modest effect. For genotype-trait associations, provide an estimate of the effect size that could be detected with power 0.80 or higher with the allele frequency and sample size reported.
    3. Since multiple statistical testing methods are frequently used in genotyping-phenotyping studies, please include specifics of the primary model(s) tested. Non-essential secondary models may be published as electronic data supplements. Clinically relevant confounders should be included in multivariable models or residuals.
  3. Review criteria for human linkage studies. Manuscripts should include the following:
    1. Identifying plausible candidate genes under the linkage peak.
    2. Follow-up fine mapping to narrow the region of linkage, and/or genotyping some of the candidate genes under the linkage peak.
    3. Replication data from another sample.

Guidelines for Drugs and Reagents

Give generic rather than trademark names of drugs. The generic chemical identification of all investigational drugs must be provided. The complete name and location of the manufacturer must be supplied for all reagents, equipment, and devices used in the Methods.

Data Deposition & Data Availability

Authors are asked to ensure that manuscripts adhere to the AHA Journals' implementation of the Transparency and Openness Promotion (TOP) Guidelines (available online here).

In general, to allow others to replicate and build on work published in AHA/ASA journals, we strongly recommend that authors make materials, data, code, and associated protocols available to readers. Authors must disclose upon submission of the manuscript any restrictions on the availability of materials or information. A list of potential data repositories is available here.

Certain types of data are required to be made available to reviewers and publicly accessible upon publication as follows:

  • Genomic, Proteomic, and Other High-Throughput Data Studies: Authors of papers that include genomic, proteomic, or other high-throughput data are required to make their data easily accessible to the reviewers and the editors during the review process. You may submit your data to the NCBI gene expression and hybridization array data repository (GEO, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/) and provide the GEO accession number with a direct link to access the data; or, you may provide a link to a secure or publicly accessible website that hosts the data. Prior to publication, the data must be submitted and an accession number obtained. It is the authors' responsibility to ensure that access to the information in the database is available at the time of initial publication. GEO has a web-based submission route, suitable for a small number of samples, or a batch submission tool (called SOFT). GEO is accessible from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/. Submission FAQ is at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/projects/geo/info/faq.html.

  • Protein and Nucleic Acid Data: Newly reported nucleotide or protein sequences must be deposited in GenBank (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/Genbank/index.html), EMBL (http://www.ebi.ac.uk), or DNA Data Bank of Japan (http://www.ddbj.nig.ac.jp) databases, and an accession number must be obtained. Access to the information in the database must be available at the time of publication. Authors are responsible for arranging release of data at the time of publication. The authors must also provide a statement in the manuscript that this sequence has been scanned against the database and all sequences with significant relatedness to the new sequence identified (and their accession numbers included in the text of the manuscript). Submission to any data bank is sufficient to ensure entry in all.

Research Methods & Materials Availability

Authors should ensure that published Methods are detailed enough to enable readers to replicate the experiments and are encouraged to use public repositories for protocols, data, code, and other materials.

Laboratory Protocols

We recommend and encourage you to deposit laboratory protocols in a repository such as protocols.io, where protocols can be assigned their own persistent digital object identifiers (DOIs). Protocols.io provides a free platform for researchers to publish their protocols and control who can view them. An available app allows each protocol to be conveniently run in a mobile device at the bench.

To include a link to a protocol in your article:

  1. Create a free account at Protocols.io.
  2. Describe your step-by-step protocol with commentary as needed.
  3. Select Get DOI to issue your protocol a persistent digital object identifier (DOI).
  4. Include the DOI link in the Methods section of your manuscript using the following format provided by Protocols.io: http://dx.doi.org/10.17504/protocols.io.xxxxxxx (where xxxxxxx is the unique ID).

At this stage, your protocol is only visible to those with the link. This allows editors and reviewers to consult your protocol when evaluating the manuscript. You can make your protocols public at any time by selecting Publish on the Protocols.io site. Any referenced protocol(s) will automatically be made public when your article is published.

Research Materials Availability

All biological materials, including plasmids, cell lines, and model organisms, should be made available to qualified investigators upon reasonable request. We strongly encourage authors to deposit copies of their plasmids as DNA or bacterial stocks with repositories such as Addgene or PlasmID. Other established repositories for biological materials include the American Type Culture Collection, Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center, Bloomington Drosophila Stock Center, Caenorhabditis Genetics Center, the European Conditional Mouse Mutagenesis Program, the European Mouse Mutant Archive, the Knockout Mouse Project, the Jackson Laboratory, the Mutant Mouse Regional Resource Centers, and RIKEN Bioresource Centre.

Authors are strongly encouraged to deposit new cell lines in repositories that will distribute them with certificates of authentication. Authors may be asked to report on the source and authentication of their cell lines.

Authors are encouraged to include Research Resource Identifiers (RRIDs) when possible, as described by the Resource Identification Initiative. RRIDs are persistent identifiers (similar to DOIs) for identifying and tracking key resources such as antibodies, organisms, and tools. The Resource Identification Portal provides additional information on locating or creating RRIDs as needed.

Please note that some of the AHA Journals require that all research materials listed in the Methods be included in the Major Resources Table file, which will be posted online as PDF with the article Supplemental Materials if the manuscript is accepted. A template Major Resources Table file (.docx) is available for download here: AHAJournals_MajorResourcesTable_Updated.docx. Please check individual journal Author Instructions for specific journal requirements.