Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - RMZ

Publication Bias: Analysis of Non-Publication and Non-Reception of Results in Interdisciplinary Comparison

Principal Investigators: Dr. Felicitas Heßelmann (HU), Dr. Helen Niemeyer (FU)

Researcher: Jacqueline Sachse

The publication of research results presents a central element of academic knowledge production. Here, it is crucial that results that meet the field-specific standards of research quality are published in their entirety. Having an unbiased and complete scientific record is a precondition for academic discourse, a valid synthesis of existing knowledge, and the ensuing production of new knowledge. However, it can be observed that the science system currently produces incentives for publication that are not directly related to research quality but that still favor some results over others: Research with positive results, that support existing expectations or fit well with the zeitgeist are often published, read, and cited preferentially. Against this backdrop, the project aims at identifying the field-specific causes and conditions of non-publication and non-reception at the level of research practice, in order to address them systematically. It relates to the larger question of how the the different values of research quality, chances of publication, chances of reception, and academic reputation are related in practices of research and publication. These questions shall be addressed comparatively in two different research fields employing a mixed-methods approach, thus contrasting a field that predominantly uses quantitative methods for hypothesis-testing with a field that predominantly works qualitatively and hermeneutically. The results shall then form the empirical basis for the development of an educational and participatory intervention for reducing publication bias that is aimed at early career researchers.
The project is carried out in cooperation between the Humboldt-Universität (PI Dr. Felicitas Heßelmann, Robert-K.-Merton-Zentrum) and the Free University (PI Dr. Helen Niemeyer, Arbeitsbereich Klinisch-Psychologische Intervention) and funded by the Berlin University Alliance. The subproject located at the Humboldt-Universität will be concerned with the qualitative analysis of research processes that lead to the decisions to publish, to read, or to cite specific research results. Its focus is on conducting semi-structured interviews about the relationship between research quality and chances of publication, as well as on an ethnographic observation of publication processes in selected research groups in two disciplines.

Supported by

Berlin University Alliance