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Proposals on Kaplan–Meier plots in medical research and a survey of stakeholder views: KMunicate
  1. Tim P Morris1,
  2. Christopher I Jarvis2,
  3. William Cragg3,
  4. Patrick P J Phillips4,
  5. Babak Choodari-Oskooei1,
  6. Matthew R Sydes1
  1. 1 MRC Clinical Trials Unit at UCL, UCL, London, UK
  2. 2 Department of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3 Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  4. 4 Center for TB, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tim P Morris; tim.morris{at}


Objectives To examine reactions to the proposed improvements to standard Kaplan–Meier plots, the standard way to present time-to-event data, and to understand which (if any) facilitated better depiction of (1) the state of patients over time, and (2) uncertainty over time in the estimates of survival.

Design A survey of stakeholders’ opinions on the proposals.

Setting A web-based survey, open to international participation, for those with an interest in visualisation of time-to-event data.

Participants 1174 people participated in the survey over a 6-week period. Participation was global (although primarily Europe and North America) and represented a wide range of researchers (primarily statisticians and clinicians).

Main outcome measures Two outcome measures were of principal importance: (1) participants’ opinions of each proposal compared with a ‘standard’ Kaplan–Meier plot; and (2) participants’ overall ranking of the proposals (including the standard).

Results Most proposals were more popular than the standard Kaplan–Meier plot. The most popular proposals in the two categories, respectively, were an extended table beneath the plot depicting the numbers at risk, censored and having experienced an event at periodic timepoints, and CIs around each Kaplan–Meier curve.

Conclusions This study produced a high response number, reflecting the importance of graphics for time-to-event data. Those producing and publishing Kaplan–Meier plots—both authors and journals—should, as a starting point, consider using the combination of the two favoured proposals.

  • Kaplan–Meier
  • Survival analysis
  • Data visualisation
  • Figures
  • Clinical trials
  • Graphs

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  • Twitter @@tmorris_mrc, @@TheJarvisC1, @@PPJPhillips, @@BabakOskooei, @@mattsydes

  • Contributors The initial idea for this project came from TPM and MRS. All authors were involved in the initial planning, design and running of the study. TPM and CIJ checked and cleaned the data and TPM analysed the results. All authors commented critically on and approved the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by the Medical Research Council (grant numbers MC_UU_12023/21, MC_UU_12023/29 and MC_UU_12023/24)—TPM, WC, PP, BC-O, MRS.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval No ethical approval was required (or obtained), assessed using the online HRA decision tool. This was a survey of opinions on a non-sensitive subject, collecting no biological samples or data that might be identifiable (unless participants identified themselves in a free-text comment or chose to provide contact details to hear about the results of the survey).

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

  • Data availability statement All shareable data relevant to the study are available on the UCL Research Data Repository.