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Publication Bias: Does Unpublished Data Make Science Pseudo?

cpuusage

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Publication Bias: Does Unpublished Data Make Science Pseudo? - Mad In America

Way back in the 1970s when I first started studying psychology I heard about publication bias. It was easier to get a study published if it had significant results than if it didn't.

That made a certain amount of sense. A study producing only nonsignificant results (group against group, variable against variable, pretest versus post-test) might be badly designed, underpowered (too weak to detect a genuine effect), or simply misconceived. No wonder no one wanted to publish it. And who cares about hypotheses that turn out not to be true anyway?

Partly, of course, the problem is obvious: if positive studies are much more likely to be published than negative ones, then erroneous positive results will tend to live on forever rather than being discredited.

More recently the problem of publication bias has been shaking the foundations of much of psychology and medicine. In the field of pharmacology, the problem is worse, because the majority of outcome trials (on which medication approval and physician information is based) are conducted by pharmaceutical firms that stand to benefit enormously from positive results, and run the risk of enormous financial loss from negative ones. Numerous studies have found that positive results tend to be published, while negative ones are quietly tucked under the rug, as documented by Ben Goldacre in his excellent book Bad Pharma.

In a case examining outcome trials of antidepressants (Turner et al, 2008), 48 of 51 published studies were framed as being supportive of the drug being examined (meaning that the medication outperformed placebo). Of these, 11 were regarded by the US Food and Drug Administration as being questionable or negative but were framed as positive outcomes in publication.

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Kerome

Kerome

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An interesting article. I think it does make science a bit pseudo, you need negative studies to be published in order to include them in meta studies, a trend which has been popular for a while where one study analyses the results of a number of other studies and presents a compound, complete view. If the negative studies are unpublished they are essentially lost from the meta view, and the science becomes "spiky", driven by single positive results without the dissenting views. Also the whole idea of verification becomes a bit lost.
 
cassandra36

cassandra36

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If there is absolutely zero dissent and no other counter argument it ceases to be science. When we say this is it we know every there is to know about a subject it's just hubris and arrogance.
 
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