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Publication bias in climate-change science

We aim to understand the interplay between scientific reporting and key social events, and to test hypotheses of selective reporting and publication bias in science. In order to ask these questions we have focused on the climate change community. Despite widespread consensus among climate scientists that global warming is real and has anthropogenic roots, several end-users of science such as popular media, politicians, industrialists and citizen scientists continue to treat the facts of climate change as fodder for debate and denial.

We have been able to reject the accusation made by climate change skeptics that non-significant effects are under-represented in the literature; therefore, the theory of climate change is built on a foundation of science giving credence to positive, neutral and negative experimental results. Still, we have revealed stylistic biases in how articles are written, focusing on large, significant results in abstracts where they are most likely to be seen, and relegating small effects to technical results sections where they are likely to be overlooked by the majority of readers, especially non-scientists. Finally, we could demonstrate a correlation between key social events and publication biases, whereby reporting rates and reported effect sizes wax and wane with the apparent popularity of the field. The results in this project serve as a warning of how skewed reporting practices may bias end-users of science not accustom to diligent review of technical results sections in the scientific literature.

Figure publication bias
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Johan Hollander

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Johan Hollander

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