Can publication bias affect ecological research? A case study on soil respiration under elevated CO2

Dieleman, Wouter I.J., and Janssens, Ivan A. (2011) Can publication bias affect ecological research? A case study on soil respiration under elevated CO2. New Phytologist, 190 (3). pp. 517-521.

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Literature surveys are a prerequisite to enhance scientific knowledge as they allow us to separate systemic from idiosyncratic mechanisms and processes, and thus provide insight at a higher level than can be gained from individual studies. In ecological research, statistical synthesis of literature surveys, using meta-analysis, has become a powerful tool to quantify global mean responses to a changing climate (Curtis & Wang, 1998; Medlyn et al., 1999; Rustad et al., 2001; Treseder, 2004, 2008; Knorr et al., 2005; de Graaff et al., 2006; Luo et al., 2006; Janssens et al., 2010). Such analyses have greatly improved our understanding of ecosystem functioning and the parameterization of models. Unfortunately, there is also a downside to quantitative review methods such as meta-analysis, as they can easily be affected by publication bias (Møller & Jennions, 2001). Publication bias can be defined as the selective publication of articles showing certain types of results over those showing other types of results. The most commonly suspected publication bias is the tendency for authors and journals to only publish studies with statistically significant results, which has been termed the ‘file-drawer problem’ (Rosenthal, 1979). Moreover, researchers are under increasing pressure to publish frequently, and it is much easier to publish results that can easily be explained or support widely accepted hypotheses (Jarvis et al., 2001), than having to fight a time-consuming battle with conservative and suspicious referees (as they perhaps should be).

Item ID: 19962
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1469-8137
Keywords: climate manipulation experiments; elevated CO2; literature surveys; meta-analysis; publication bias; soil respiration; statistical synthesis
Funders: University of Antwerp Research Centre of Excellence ECO
Date Deposited: 27 Feb 2012 21:57
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050204 Environmental Impact Assessment @ 50%
08 INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES > 0806 Information Systems > 080604 Database Management @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960310 Global Effects of Climate Change and Variability (excl. Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the South Pacific) @ 100%
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