"Pressure to Publish" and the Reasons for Bias in the Research Literature

April 6, 2017 The Wiley Network

Researchers at Stanford (Daniele Fanelli, Rodrigo Costas, and John Ioannidis) have published in PNAS a new analysis of bias and compromised research integrity in the published (and grey) literature.Stressed authorr.jpg

Fifty-eight percent of researchers think that people like them are tempted to cut corners and compromise research integrity, according to the Nuffield Council on Bioethics report on culture in UK science. There’s a commonly-held opinion that pressure to publish is one of the causes.

But the cause is not pressure to publish, Fanelli and colleagues suggest. Instead, experience and absence of strong collaborations seem to be drivers. Fanelli and colleagues say (and I have cherry-picked these quotes, so reader please beware, and be sure to read the whole paper below.)

  • “the notion that pressures to publish have a direct effect on bias was not supported and even contrarian evidence was seen”
  • “the most prolific researchers and those in countries where pressures are supposedly higher were significantly less likely to publish overestimated results, suggesting that researchers who publish more may indeed be better scientists”
  • “small, highly-cited, and earlier studies may yield inflated results, may overestimate effects”
  • “effect sizes were likely to be overestimated by early-career researchers, those working in small or long-distance collaborations, and those responsible for scientific misconduct, supporting hypotheses that connect bias to situational factors, lack of mutual control, and individual integrity.”
  • “Some of these patterns and risk factors might have modestly increased in intensity over time, particularly in the social sciences.”
  • “Our findings suggest that […] interventions […] need to be discussed on a discipline-specific and topic-specific basis.”

What do you think? Read the full paper and share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image credit: Beer5020/Shutterstock

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