Positive results publication bias in scientific literature is so common that it is not only accepted but expected. Reputable journals rarely include null studies, or studies that disprove the verity of the investigator hypothesis, often significantly so. Not only does the burial of negative data prevent transparency in research, it also potentially leads to duplication of effort, wastes research money, undervalues patient contributions and materially impacts the way science is funded.
It is not uncommon for established researchers to submit grant proposals for work that is already substantially complete, and this prevents newer researchers or visionaries from pursuing bleeding edge concepts. In short, medical science and research has a very real fear of failure, even if that failure leads to discovery.
We need look no further than Covid for anecdotal evidence. Hungarian researcher Katalin Karikó is responsible for uncovering and developing the technology that lead to the Pfizer / BioNtech and Moderna Covid vaccines, but her career was riddled with rejections of her science based on an unwillingness to believe the science could work. She is, fortunately, a passionate researcher who risks her livelihood to conduct her research.
What does the scientific community and funding organizations need to do to encourage risk taking and failure and share all the data?
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