Are studies reporting significant results more likely to be published?

TitleAre studies reporting significant results more likely to be published?
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsKoletsi D, Karagianni A, Pandis N, Makou M, Polychronopoulou A, Eliades T
JournalAmerican journal of orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics : official publication of the American Association of Orthodontists, its constituent societies, and the American Board of Orthodontics
Pagination632.e1-5; discussion 632-3
Date Published2009 Nov
KeywordsDental Research; Humans; Journal Impact Factor; Orthodontics; Periodicals as Topic; Publication Bias; Publishing; Review Literature as Topic

INTRODUCTION: Our objective was to assess the hypothesis that there are variations of the proportion of articles reporting a significant effect, with a higher percentage of those articles published in journals with impact factors.

METHODS: The contents of 5 orthodontic journals (American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, Angle Orthodontist, European Journal of Orthodontics, Journal of Orthodontics, and Orthodontics and Craniofacial Research), published between 2004 and 2008, were hand-searched. Articles with statistical analysis of data were included in the study and classified into 4 categories: behavior and psychology, biomaterials and biomechanics, diagnostic procedures and treatment, and craniofacial growth, morphology, and genetics. In total, 2622 articles were examined, with 1785 included in the analysis. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were applied with statistical significance as the dependent variable, and whether the journal had an impact factor, the subject, and the year were the independent predictors.

RESULTS: A higher percentage of articles showed significant results relative to those without significant associations (on average, 88% vs 12%) for those journals. Overall, these journals published significantly more studies with significant results, ranging from 75% to 90% (P = 0.02). Multivariate modeling showed that journals with impact factors had a 100% increased probability of publishing a statistically significant result compared with journals with no impact factor (odds ratio [OR], 1.99; 95% CI, 1.19-3.31). Compared with articles on biomaterials and biomechanics, all other subject categories showed lower probabilities of significant results. Nonsignificant findings in behavior and psychology and diagnosis and treatment were 1.8 (OR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.51-2.67) and 3.5 (OR, 3.50; 95% CI, 2.27-5.37) times more likely to be published, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: Journals seem to prefer reporting significant results; this might be because of authors' perceptions of the importance of their findings and editors' and reviewers' preferences for significant results. The implication of this factor in the reliability of systematic reviews is discussed.

Alternate JournalAm J Orthod Dentofacial Orthop