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Publication bias in the social sciences: Unlocking the file drawer

Science  28 Aug 2014:

DOI: 10.1126/science.1255484

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Abstract

We study publication bias in the social sciences by analyzing a known population of conducted studies—221 in total—where there is a full accounting of what is published and unpublished. We leverage TESS, an NSF-sponsored program where researchers propose survey-based experiments to be run on representative samples of American adults. Because TESS proposals undergo rigorous peer review, the studies in the sample all exceed a substantial quality threshold. Strong results are 40 percentage points more likely to be published than null results, and 60 percentage points more likely to be written up. We provide not only direct evidence of publication bias, but also identify the stage of research production at which publication bias occurs—authors do not write up and submit null findings.

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