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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 243

Negating the negativity: Spotlight on “file drawer effect” in health care research

1 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Vishnu Dental College, Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh, India
2 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Malla Reddy Dental College for Women, Hyderabad, Telangana, India

Date of Web Publication10-Jun-2016

Correspondence Address:
Akkaloori Anitha
Department of Public Health Dentistry, Malla Reddy Dental College for Women, Hyderabad, Telangana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2319-5932.183812

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How to cite this article:
Praveen G, Anitha A, Ramesh M V. Negating the negativity: Spotlight on “file drawer effect” in health care research. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent 2016;14:243

How to cite this URL:
Praveen G, Anitha A, Ramesh M V. Negating the negativity: Spotlight on “file drawer effect” in health care research. J Indian Assoc Public Health Dent [serial online] 2016 [cited 2021 Sep 20];14:243. Available from: https://www.jiaphd.org/text.asp?2016/14/2/243/183812

Health care researchers can access evidence from a variety of sources for clinical decision-making. The most powerful and increasingly used analytic tool in clinical research is the systematic review, particularly those employing meta-analysis. These tools in turn depend on the validity of already published data. The selective publication of positive or significant results against negative or nonsignificant results is so distressing because it can distort a picture of gathered evidence. The “file drawer effect” is nonreporting of results, often negative or neutral, from clinical trials in a specific area of research.[1]

The problem of “file drawer effect” has gathered wide empirical attention from today's world of scientific community. Rosenthal hypothesized that studies carrying negative effects would remain in the researcher's file drawers, relatively are out of the way to reviewers. He speculated that for every significant finding in the published literature, there are 19 nonsignificant findings in file drawers.[2] Several authors have discussed various factors that contribute to file drawer problems. A common reason for failure to publish is “self-censoring of trial results.” Majority of researchers have a strong opinion that negative findings carry a low priority for publication. The work of Dickersin suggests that rejection by journals of studies with negative results is also one major contribution to file drawer problems in health care research.[3]

The revolt against file drawer problems has sparked a movement in which some have attempted to reverse the negativity toward negative results. A group of journals have been specifically created to publish the “rejects”[4] (Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine). Combating this problem, on the 14th of April 2015, WHO made a press statement that the findings of clinical trials have to be published through an open access mechanism unless there is a specific reason why open access cannot be used or otherwise made available publicly at most within 24 months of study completion. Another important feature was its call for public disclosure of results from older, unreported clinical trials as they have an important bearing on current scientific research.[5] WHO calls for ethics committees, regulatory authorities, professional bodies, sponsors, investigators, and funding agencies to act in their jurisdictions to ensure results from all interventional clinical trials reported and publicly disclosed.[5]

At present, one of the most significant concerns of clinical trial databases is the difficulty in reporting research findings, especially those research works funded by the sponsors. Therefore, the data are often not available for open access. Unfortunately, only a few registries currently exist to ensure clinical trial documentation. To avoid “withholding results,” there is an urgent need to improve the policies of scientific journals for publication and access to clinical trial data. For all the above-mentioned reasons, the only consideration underlying the decision to publish a trial should be the quality of research process rather than the statistical significance of results.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Capuano A, Coats AJ, Scavone C, Rossi F, Rosano GM. Disclosure of negative trial results. A call for action. Int J Cardiol 2015;198:47-8.  Back to cited text no. 1
Rosenthal R. The file drawer problem and tolerance for null results. Psychol Bull 1979;86:638-41.  Back to cited text no. 2
Dickersin K, Min YI, Meinert CL. Factors influencing publication of research results. Follow-up of applications submitted to two institutional review boards. JAMA 1992;267:374-8.  Back to cited text no. 3
Matosin N, Frank E, Engel M, Lum JS, Newell KA. Negativity towards negative results: A discussion of the disconnect between scientific worth and scientific culture. Dis Model Mech 2014;7:171-3.  Back to cited text no. 4
World Health Organization. WHO Statement on Public Disclosure of Clinical Trial Results. Available from: http://www.who.int/ictrp/results/en/. [Last accessed on 2016 Feb 10].  Back to cited text no. 5


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