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Publishing Negative Research Results

Clinical ResearchEthics in Clinical Research

Publishing Negative Research Results

We have all been talking about ethics related to patient safety, informed consent, ethics committees etc; however not much is talked about publishing of the data that comes out of every research, be it preclinical or clinical. The question is: Are research results published ethically? History tells us that when it comes to publishing of research results, most researches mostly preferred not to publish the results if they were negative. The results which were mind wobblers and promising were put forth to attract the readers. The only thing which used to matter was to give the audience what they wanted to read, not the complete results which were available with the researchers. Publications even now are considered as a pie of which everyone involved wants a piece.

Publication Bias:

The editorial community has always been seen to create a bias towards the publishing of clinical trials with negative data. This ‘Negative Publication Bias’, has emerged in recent past…The issue has marked its presence in both sides of the coin, which are the drug companies and the researchers or medical journals in skewing the overall view, either of negative interventional data or complete disappearance of negative results, as the readers usually show disinterest towards it.
Publishing the data has helped many in different ways. For the younger researchers published data has been a source and reference for their readings and new research. Budding researchers also get healthy ideas for their own research while going through peer reviewed confirmed results. For researchers, publishing negative results may avoid the waste of resources as the same mistakes will not be repeated again.
To avoid non or limited publishing of negative research results, the industry is taking some steps. Nearly a decade back a mandate has been created to publish the data even if it was negative. Still only one third of negative results were getting published. Awareness towards each side of coin (both positive and negative results) is now being tried to be established with the researchers. Journals such as ‘The Lancet’ are also encouraging authors to publish abstracts of trial protocols on their websites, and promise fast-track peer review of the final results. A number of trial registries have reviewed their policies over last few years, but still many goals are yet to be achieved. It is still a long way to go till publishing of research results becomes completely transparent and ethical with both positive and negative results being reported appropriately.

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