Do pressures to publish increase scientists’ bias?

By | April 23, 2010

Image: a photograph of Albert Einstein’s Princeton desk taken only a few hours after he died in 1955.

The quality of scientific research may be suffering because academics are being increasingly pressured to produce ‘publishable’ results, a new study suggests. A large analysis of papers in all disciplines shows that researchers report more “positive” results for their experiments in US states where academics publish more frequently.

The results are reported in the online, open-access journal PLoS ONE on April 21st, by Daniele Fanelli, of the University of Edinburgh.

The condition of today’s scientists is commonly described by the expression “publish or perish.” Their careers are increasingly evaluated based on the sheer number of papers listed in their CVs, and by the number of citations received — a measure of scientific quality that is hotly debated. To secure jobs and funding, therefore, researchers must publish continuously. The problem is that papers are likely to be accepted by journals and to be cited depending on the results they report.

“Scientists face an increasing conflict of interest, torn between the need to be accurate and objective and the need to keep their careers alive” says Fanelli, “while many studies have shown the deleterious effects of financial conflicts of interests in biomedical research, no one has looked at this much broader conflict, which might affect all fields.” …

via Do pressures to publish increase scientists’ bias?.

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