While the presence of publication bias – the selective publishing of positive studies – in science is well known, debate continues about how extensive such bias truly is and the best way to identify it.
The most recent entrant in the debate is a paper by Robbie van Aert and co-authors, who have published a study titled “Publication bias examined in meta-analyses from psychology and medicine: A meta-meta-analysis” in PLoS ONE. Van Aert, a postdoc at the Meta-Research Center in the Department of Methodology and Statistics at Tilburg University, Netherlands, has been involved in the Open Science Collaboration’s psychology reproducibility project but has now turned his attention to understanding the extent of publication bias in the literature.
Using a sample of studies of psychology and medicine, the new “meta-meta-analysis” diverges from “previous research showing rather strong indications for publication bias” and instead suggests “only weak evidence for the prevalence of publication bias.” The analysis found mild publication bias influences psychology and medicine similarly.
Retraction Watch asked van Aert about his study’s findings. His answers have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
RW: How much are empiric analyses of publication bias influenced by the methods used? Based on your work, do you believe there is a preferred method to look at bias?
We sent an email to PLoS ONE in response to their intention to retract our paper explaining why we disagree with retraction but it seems they did not change their statement and went ahead with retraction. We suggested that discussing the methodological issues is a more rational approach and beneficial than retraction but received no response.
The editors of PLoS ONE have done something that we’re betting Donald Trump will never do: Retract a statement about noisy wind turbines.
The journal is pulling a 2014 article, titled “Adaptive neuro-fuzzy methodology for noise assessment of wind turbine,” after concluding that the researchers plagiarized. The corresponding author of the article is Shahaboddin Shamshirban, of the Department of Computer System and Information Technology at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and the retraction isn’t his first. In fact, it’s not even the only one Shamshirban has in PLoS ONE this week. The journal also is retracting a 2016 paper from his group, bringing his total to 20, for sins including plagiarism and faked peer review.
According to the internet, Bear Grylls, the TV survivalist, said he “was always brought up to have a cup of tea at halfway up a rock face.” Which sounds too cute to be true and, given Grylls’ history of, um, buffing the hard edges of reality, almost certainly isn’t.
But Grylls appears to be far from alone in his tea hyperbole. A group of researchers in India has lost their 2011 paper in PLoS ONE on the synergistic effects of black tea and resveratrol — the compound in red wine touted as a fountain of youth — on skin cancer for what (if we’re allowed to read the tea leaves) amounts to a cuppa apparent data fabrication.
PLoS ONE has retracted a meta-analysis on mindfulness after determining that the authors used dubious methodology and failed to adequately report their financial interest in the psychological treatment the article found effective.
The authors, from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands and Harvard University, included Herbert Benson, of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. The institute (which has taken down its link to the paper) offers a raft of services for patients, including a Stress Management and Resiliency Program, a Mind Body Program for Health and Fertility, a Mind Body Program for Cancer, yoga, Tai Chi and initiatives to help foster “resilient youth.”
The stars did not align for a 2016 paper ancient astronomy in the Amazon region after the author discovered errors in his work that the journal deemed fatal to the case, although the author has objected to the retraction.
And the author feels as though he was punished for being honest.
A researcher who studied natural products for cancer at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), had six papers retracted last month, bringing him to a total of 12.
Four of the recently retracted papers by Santosh Katiyar had appeared in PLOS ONE, and two had been published in Cancer Research. They have together been cited more than 250 times, according to Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, and are on subjects including compounds found in grape seeds and green tea.