A new study published in PLOS Biology looks at the potential magnitude and effect of publication bias in animal trials. Essentially, the authors conclude that there is a significant file drawer effect –- failure to publish negative studies -– with animal studies and this impacts the translation of animal research to human clinical trials.
SBM is greatly concerned with the technology of medical science. On one level, the methods of individual studies need to be closely analyzed for rigor and bias. But we also go to great pains to dispel the myth that individual studies can tell us much about the practice of medicine.
Reliable conclusions come from interpreting the literature as a whole, and not just individual studies. Further, the whole of the literature is greater than the sum of individual studies –- there are patterns and effects in the literature itself that need to be considered.
One big effect is the file drawer effect, or publication bias –- the tendency to publish positive studies more than negative studies. A study showing that a treatment works or has potential is often seen as doing more for the reputation of a journal and the careers of the scientists than negative studies. So studies with no measurable effect tend to languish unpublished. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*