Publication selection in health policy research: the winner's curse hypothesis

Health Policy. 2013 Jan;109(1):78-87. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2012.10.015. Epub 2012 Nov 20.


There is a widely discussed problem of publication bias in medical and health services research. Where quantitative effects form the basis of a publication a 'winner's curse' curse may apply. This phenomenon may occur as prospective authors of research papers compete by reporting 'more extreme and spectacular results' in order to increase the chances of their paper being accepted for publication. This paper examines this phenomenon using quantitative findings on income and price elasticities as reported in health economics research. We find robust statistical evidence that higher-impact journals preferentially report larger empirical estimates of these elasticities. That is, we find robust evidence of a winner's curse hypothesis contributing to the existence of publication bias found in both the income and the price elasticities of health care and drugs, as well as value of life research.

MeSH terms

  • Economics, Medical
  • Health Policy*
  • Health Services Research*
  • Humans
  • Journal Impact Factor
  • Periodicals as Topic / standards
  • Periodicals as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Publication Bias
  • Publications* / standards
  • Publications* / statistics & numerical data