Preventing the ends from justifying the means: withholding results to address publication bias in peer-review

BMC Psychol. 2016 Dec 1;4(1):59. doi: 10.1186/s40359-016-0167-7.

Abstract

The evidence that many of the findings in the published literature may be unreliable is compelling. There is an excess of positive results, often from studies with small sample sizes, or other methodological limitations, and the conspicuous absence of null findings from studies of a similar quality. This distorts the evidence base, leading to false conclusions and undermining scientific progress. Central to this problem is a peer-review system where the decisions of authors, reviewers, and editors are more influenced by impressive results than they are by the validity of the study design. To address this, BMC Psychology is launching a pilot to trial a new 'results-free' peer-review process, whereby editors and reviewers are blinded to the study's results, initially assessing manuscripts on the scientific merits of the rationale and methods alone. The aim is to improve the reliability and quality of published research, by focusing editorial decisions on the rigour of the methods, and preventing impressive ends justifying poor means.

Keywords: Peer review; Publication bias; Results-free review; Transparency.

Publication types

  • Editorial

MeSH terms

  • Peer Review, Research*
  • Periodicals as Topic*
  • Psychology*
  • Publication Bias*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design