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Data from: Prolific observer bias in the life sciences: why we need blind data recording

posted on 2022-06-10, 03:02 authored by Luke Holman, Megan L. Head, Robert Lanfear, Michael D. Jennions
Observer bias and other “experimenter effects” occur when researchers’ expectations influence study outcome. These biases are strongest when researchers expect a particular result, are measuring subjective variables, and have an incentive to produce data that confirm predictions. To minimize bias, it is good practice to work “blind,” meaning that experimenters are unaware of the identity or treatment group of their subjects while conducting research. Here, using text mining and a literature review, we find evidence that blind protocols are uncommon in the life sciences and that nonblind studies tend to report higher effect sizes and more significant p-values. We discuss methods to minimize bias and urge researchers, editors, and peer reviewers to keep blind protocols in mind.

Usage Notes

Evolution literature review dataExact p value datasetjournal_categoriesp values data 24 SeptProportion of significant p values per paperR script to filter and classify the p value dataQuiz answers - guessing effect size from abstractsThe answers provided by the 9 evolutionary biologists to quiz we designed, which aimed to test whether trained specialists are able to infer the relative size/direction of effect size from a paper's title and abstract.readmeDescription of the contents of all the other files in this Dryad submission.R script to statistically analyse the p value dataR script detailing the statistical analyses we performed on the p value datasets.


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