National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to solicit public input on the barriers and solutions to reducing publication bias (i.e., the preferential dissemination of statistically significant or otherwise exciting studies) in biomedical research. Dissemination of positive as well as null studies (studies where the primary endpoint or key finding does not reach statistical significance) is vital for scientific progress and accurate assessment of cumulative evidence. However, formal dissemination of null studies is rare. Thus, NINDS is seeking input on potential solutions that will address publication bias across biomedical research fields.
Publication bias against null studies stymies research progress and wastes valuable resources, as failure to formally disseminate null studies can lead to the repetition of experiments that have previously been conducted (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23060188/). Publication bias also greatly skews assessment of the cumulative evidence in a field or discipline (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37553250/), and the preponderance of positive studies and dearth of null studies can lead to the acceptance of false claims. Publication bias greatly impacts future scientific studies due to the fact that sample size estimation is often based on the effect size from previous studies; thus, if only the studies that produce positive findings are disseminated, then there is an increased likelihood that effect sizes will be inflated and experiments will be underpowered (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22157857/). Additionally, publication bias could impact scientists career progression due to the difficulty in acquiring publications, as null studies are often more difficult to publish (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37553250/). Furthermore, not pursuing publication of null studies also gives trainees the perception that null studies are not as valuable as positive ones, even if the experimental design was rigorous.
There are significant barriers to publishing null studies, and these barriers are multi-faceted. Solutions will likely involve all members of the scientific community. Thus, NINDS seeks public input on potential interventions and solutions for this complex issue.
NINDS requests public input on the barriers to addressing publication bias and possible solutions to mitigating publication bias. Responses are especially encouraged to address the following:
Responses will be considered by NINDS if submitted no later than April 1, 2024. You may respond to this RFI by filling out this webform or submitting an email to RigorChampions@nih.gov. If submitting by email, please include the Notice number (NOT-NS-24-052) in the subject line.
Responding to this RFI is voluntary. Responses may address any or all aspects of the information requested or other relevant topics pertinent for consideration by NINDS. NINDS staff will use discretion when considering responses submitted after the comment period has closed.
Respondents will not receive individualized feedback concerning their responses. Proprietary, classified, confidential, or sensitive information should not be included in your response. The Government reserves the right to use non-proprietary technical information in any resultant solicitation(s), summaries, or other materials.
This RFI is for information and planning purposes only and should not be construed as a policy, solicitation for applications, or an obligation on the part of the Federal Government, the National Institutes of Health, or NINDS to provide support for any ideas identified in response to it. Please note that NINDS does not intend to make any awards based on responses to this RFI or to otherwise pay for the preparation of any information submitted or for the Government's use of such information.
Mariah Hoye, Ph.D.
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Office of Research Quality