Monte Carlo-based computer simulations provide a powerful alternative to experiments in many areas of research, and have become commonplace in both diagnostic and therapy medical physics research. Continuing growth in computer power have contributed to the increasing number and complexity of such simulations.
As with experimental studies, the design of a Monte Carlo simulation and selection of parameters can result in large variations in the final results. Unfortunately, many published peer-reviewed articles involving Monte Carlo simulations do not include detailed enough descriptions for the reader to adequately assess their quality and validity.
To address this shortfall, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) formed Task Group #268 to develop guidelines to improve reporting of Monte Carlo studies in medical physics research. The aim is to increase the level of relevant detail included in publications, which in turn, should increase the transparency, the ability to reproduce results and the overall scientific value of these studies. The team – which includes contributors from the Netherlands, Canada, Spain and the USA – has now published details of these guidelines (Med. Phys. doi: 10.1002/mp.12702).
The guidelines include a checklist of items that should be included in the methods, results and discussion sections of manuscripts submitted for peer-review. The authors envision that the list will be useful for both authors and reviewers, to help ensure adequate description of Monte Carlo studies in the medical physics literature. They note that the checklist is drafted to be applicable to studies using any Monte Carlo software, both publicly available code and methods developed in-house.
In addition to the checklist itself, the Task Group has produced a template table, for possible inclusion in the methods section, that would enable inclusion of many of the checklist items with short phrases and/or references to previous work. Both the checklist and the methods table are provided in full in the Medical Physics paper.