Metrics News

  • Numerous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have reported sex differences. To empirically evaluate for evidence of excessive significance bias in this literature, we searched for published fMRI studies of human brain to evaluate sex differences, regardless of the topic investigated, in Medline and Scopus over 10 years. We analyzed the prevalence of conclusions in favor of sex differences and the correlation between study sample sizes and number of significant foci identified. In the absence of bias, larger studies (better powered) should identify a larger number of significant foci. Across 179 papers, median sample size was n = 32 (interquartile range 23-47.5). A median of 5 foci related to sex differences were reported (interquartile range, 2-9.5). Few articles (n = 2) had titles focused on no differences or on similarities (n = 3) between sexes. Overall, 158 papers (88%) reached “positive” conclusions in their abstract and presented some foci related to sex differences. There was no statistically significant relationship between sample size and the number of foci (−0.048% increase for every 10 participants, p = 0.63). The extremely high prevalence of “positive” results and the lack of the expected relationship between sample size and the number of discovered foci reflect probable reporting bias and excess significance bias in this literature.
  • Industry-associated financial conflict of interest (COI) has been documented to distort the outcomes and interpretations of trials,1 meta-analyses,2 and guidelines3 of medical treatments. As a result, COI disclosures are now often required from authors whose work is published in biomedical journals. Enforcement of disclosure policies is still suboptimal in medical journals, but there has been improvement over time4 and some consensus on which COIs are worth disclosing. However, the discussion of financial COI associated with psychosocial interventions has remained underdeveloped.
  • Assessment of researchers is necessary for decisions of hiring, promotion, and tenure. A burgeoning number of scientific leaders believe the current system of faculty incentives and rewards is misaligned with the needs of society and disconnected from the evidence about the causes of the reproducibility crisis and suboptimal quality of the scientific publication record. To address this issue, particularly for the clinical and life sciences, we convened a 22-member expert panel workshop in Washington, DC, in January 2017. Twenty-two academic leaders, funders, and scientists participated in the meeting. As background for the meeting, we completed a selective literature review of 22 key documents critiquing the current incentive system. From each document, we extracted how the authors perceived the problems of assessing science and scientists, the unintended consequences of maintaining the status quo for assessing scientists, and details of their proposed solutions. The resulting table was used as a seed for participant discussion. This resulted in six principles for assessing scientists and associated research and policy implications. We hope the content of this paper will serve as a basis for establishing best practices and redesigning the current approaches to assessing scientists by the many players involved in that process.
  • A Stanford Medicine interview with our own Stelios Serghiou
  • John Ioannidis discusses the recent proposal to lower P value thresholds to .005