Do Peer Reviewers Prefer Significant Results?

I’ve extended been producing about complications in how science is communicated and printed. 1 of the most effectively-known fears in this context is publication bias — the tendency for results that validate a hypothesis to get printed additional easily than those people that really do not.

Publication bias has many contributing aspects, but the peer evaluate procedure is broadly seen as a vital driver. Peer reviewers, it is broadly considered, are likely to glimpse additional favorably on “positive” (i.e., statistically sizeable) results.

But is the reviewer choice for positive results truly accurate? A not long ago printed review implies that the impact does exist, but that it is not a enormous impact.

Scientists Malte Elson, Markus Huff and Sonja Utz carried out a intelligent experiment to establish the effect of statistical significance on peer evaluate evaluations. The authors were being the organizers of a 2015 meeting to which researchers submitted abstracts that were being subject to peer evaluate.

The keynote speaker at this meeting, by the way, was none other than “Neuroskeptic (a pseudonymous science blogger).”

Elson et al. developed a dummy abstract and experienced the meeting peer reviewers evaluate this synthetic “submission” alongside the true ones. Every single reviewer was randomly assigned to get a edition of the abstract with either a sizeable result or a nonsignificant result the facts of the fictional review were being in any other case identical. The final sample dimensions was n=127 reviewers.

The authors do focus on the ethics of this marginally unconventional experiment!

It turned out that the statistically sizeable edition of the abstract was presented a higher “overall recommendation” rating than the nonsignificant just one. The distinction, approximately one point on a scale out of ten, was statistically sizeable, even though marginally (p=.039).

The authors conclude that:

We noticed some proof for a smaller bias in favor of sizeable results. At minimum for this certain meeting, though, it is unlikely that the impact was significant sufficient to notably have an affect on acceptance prices.

The experiment also examined whether or not reviewers experienced a choice for original research vs. replication research (so there were being four versions of the dummy abstract in complete.) This unveiled no distinction.

Effects of significant vs. nonsignificant results

(Credit history: Elson et al. 2020)

So this review implies that reviewers, at minimum at this meeting, do indeed prefer positive results. But as the authors acknowledge, it is really hard to know whether or not this would generalize to other contexts.

For instance, the abstracts that were being reviewed for this meeting were being minimal to just 300 words. In other contexts, notably journal article testimonials, reviewers are offered with significantly additional details to base an feeling on. With just 300 words to go by, reviewers in this review may well have paid notice to the results just mainly because there wasn’t substantially else to decide on.

On the other hand, the authors observe that the contributors in the 2015 meeting may well have been unusually aware of the difficulty of publication bias, and as a result additional probable to give null results a good listening to.

For the context of this review, it is suitable to observe that the division (and its management at the time) can be characterized as relatively progressive with regard to open-science beliefs and tactics.

This is undoubtedly accurate following all, they invited me, an anonymous person with a web site, to communicate to them, just on the energy of my writings about open science.

There have only been a handful of former research using comparable layouts to probe peer evaluate biases, and they normally discovered bigger results. 1 1982 paper discovered a significant bias in favor of sizeable results at a psychology journal, as did a 2010 review at a clinical journal.

The authors conclude that their dummy submission system could be practical in the review of peer evaluate:

We hope that this review encourages psychologists, as men and women and on institutional concentrations (associations, journals, conferences), to perform experimental analysis on peer evaluate, and that the preregistered industry experiment we have noted may possibly serve as a blueprint of the form of analysis we argue is needed to cumulatively make a demanding expertise base on the peer evaluate procedure.