Objective: --To investigate factors associated with the publication of research findings, in particular, the association between "significant" results and publication.
Design: --Follow-up study.
Setting: --Studies approved in 1980 or prior to 1980 by the two institutional review boards that serve The Johns Hopkins Health Institutions--one that serves the School of Medicine and Hospital and the other that serves the School of Hygiene and Public Health.
Population: --A total of 737 studies were followed up.
Results: --Of the studies for which analyses had been reported as having been performed at the time of interview, 81% from the School of Medicine and Hospital and 66% from the School of Hygiene and Public Health had been published. Publication was not associated with sample size, presence of a comparison group, or type of study (eg, observational study vs clinical trial). External funding and multiple data collection sites were positively associated with publication. There was evidence of publication bias in that for both institutional review boards there was an association between results reported to be significant and publication (adjusted odds ratio, 2.54; 95% confidence interval, 1.63 to 3.94). Contrary to popular opinion, publication bias originates primarily with investigators, not journal editors: only six of the 124 studies not published were reported to have been rejected for publication.
Conclusion: --There is a statistically significant association between significant results and publication.