All’s well literature bias

occurs when publications omit or play down controversies or disparate results.

Background

All’s well literature bias refers to a situation in which there is a bias to dominant theories that in some way precludes the publication of opposing theories evidence. The mechanism for how this might happen is not clear although it might be imagined that it could take place either subconsciously, or consciously by those who have vested interests in maintaining the currently dominant theory.

Example

Sackett DL. Bias in Analytical Research

Sackett was referring to editorials that can be a repository for all well’s literature bias due to the predominance of opinion.

In the NEJM example, for almost 50 years, since insulin therapy was initiated, proponents of “rigid,” “tight” or “chemical” control quoted retrospective evidence of decreased or delayed nephropathy and retinopathy as glucose levels are brought by therapy toward the normal range. Opponents pointed to the complications in many of these patients. (Cahill 1976)

Impact

As far as we are aware, there have been no studies formally examining the impact of this bias. We consider the subjective nature of this bias will make it difficult to quantify.  Individual articles, however, could potentially have significant implications for policy and practice.

Preventive steps

Mechanisms to support submissions for publication from a broad authorship, practice fair peer review editing, and avoid nepotism, along with avoiding  conflicts should all work to prevent this bias.

Sources

Sackett DL. Bias in analytic research. J Chron Dis 1979; 32: 51-63

Cahill GF Jr, Etzwiler LD, Freinkel N. Editorial: “Control” and diabetes. N Engl J Med. 1976 Apr 29;294(18):1004-5. No abstract available.


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