New meta-research article in PLOS Biology: ‘Spin’ in published biomedical literature

Last modified: October 16, 2017

Methodological systematic review

Kellia Chiu, Quinn Grundy, and Lisa Bero of The University of Sydney, Australia


“In the scientific literature, spin refers to reporting practices that distort the interpretation of results and mislead readers so that results are viewed in a more favourable light. The presence of spin in biomedical research can negatively impact the development of further studies, clinical practice, and health policies. We conducted a systematic review to explore the nature and prevalence of spin in the biomedical literature. We included 35 reports, which investigated spin in clinical trials, observational studies, diagnostic accuracy studies, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses. The nature of spin varied according to study design. The highest (but also greatest) variability in the prevalence of spin was present in trials. Some of the common practices used to spin results included detracting from statistically nonsignificant results and inappropriately using causal language. Source of funding was hypothesised by a few authors to be a factor associated with spin; however, results were inconclusive, possibly due to the heterogeneity of the included papers. Further research is needed to assess the impact of spin on readers’ decision-making. Editors and peer reviewers should be familiar with the prevalence and manifestations of spin in their area of research in order to ensure accurate interpretation and dissemination of research.”

The full article can be found here:

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