22 Sep 2016   |   News

Journal to experiment with ‘results free’ peer review

BMC Psychology will hide study outcomes from reviewers to try root out the scourge of unpublished negative results

The open access journal BMC Psychology will experiment with a ‘results free’ peer-review process in which reviewers of scientific papers submitted for publication will not be able to see the results or discussion sections until the end of the review process.

“We believe that this could help reduce publication bias by basing the decision to publish purely on the scientific rigour of the study design,” said Liz Bal, associate publisher at BioMed Central, which publishes BMC Psychology.

With the results hidden, reviewers will be forced to grade papers on the strength of their methodologies. “The current system favours publication bias because significant results are seen as more important to the scientific record by publishers, academics and the systems in place to measure their performance,” said Katherine Button, a psychologist from the University of Bath and advocate for improving research transparency.

A pervasive problem in science sees researchers shelving experiments which fail to produce positive results. However, failed attempts form an important part of the scientific record and revealing them to the world means other researchers do not repeat the same experiments and funding bodies do not waste money supporting the same research twice. More importantly, in clinical research, patients are not treated with therapies that have already been shown to be ineffective.

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