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American studies are more “positive” with pressure

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Researchers worldwide produce more than 1.4 million scientific articles each year.

A new european study shows that the ever-growing pressure to produce publishable results can adversely impact the quality of scientific research.

It was found that researchers report more ‘positive’ results for their experiments if they are based in US states where academics publish more frequently.

A cause of particular concern is the growing competition for research funding and academic positions, which, combined with an increasing use of bibliometric parameters to evaluate careers (e.g. number of publications and the impact factor of the journals they appeared in), pressures scientists into continuously producing “publishable” results“.

Like all human beings, scientists are confirmation-biased (i.e. tend to select information that supports their hypotheses about the world), and they are far from indifferent to the outcome of their own research: positive results make them happy and negative ones disappointed“.

He found that authors working in more ‘productive’ states were more inclined to support the tested hypothesis regardless of their research domain and whether or not funding was allocated to them. His research findings also reportedly hint that academics who carry out research in more competitive and productive environments are more likely to make their results look more ‘positive’.

The conclusions could be applied to all scientifically advanced countries, says the study, adding that policies that rely excessively on productivity measures might be lowering the quality of research.

Fanelli D (2010) Do Pressures to Publish Increase Scientists’ Bias? An Empirical Support from US States Data. PLoS ONE 5(4): e10271.

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0010271

Written by hbasset

April 26, 2010 at 5:20 pm

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