A survey to assess animal methods bias in scientific publishing

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Catharine E. Krebs
Ann Lam
Janine McCarthy
Helder Constantino
Kristie Sullivan


Publication of scientific findings is fundamental for research, pushing innovation and generating interventions that benefit society, but it is not without biases. Publication bias is generally recognized as journal's preference for publishing studies based on the direction and magnitude of results. However, early evidence of a newly recognized type of publication bias has emerged in which journal policy, peer reviewers, or editors request that animal data be provided to validate studies produced using nonanimal-based approaches. We describe herein “animal methods bias” in publishing: a preference for animal-based methods where they may not be necessary or where nonanimal-based methods may be suitable, which affects the likelihood of a manuscript being accepted for publication. To gather evidence of animal methods bias, we set out to collect the experiences and perceptions of scientists and reviewers related to animal- and nonanimal-based experiments during peer review. We created a cross-sectional survey with 33 questions that was completed by 90 respondents working in various biological fields. Twenty-one survey respondents indicated that they have carried out animal-based experiments for the sole purpose of anticipating reviewer requests. Thirty-one survey respondents indicated that they have been asked by peer reviewers to add animal experimental data to their nonanimal study; 14 of these felt the request was sometimes justified, and 11 did not think it was justified. The data presented provide preliminary evidence of animal methods bias and indicate that status quo and conservatism biases may explain such attitudes by peer reviewers and editors.

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Krebs, C. E., Lam, A., McCarthy, J., Constantino, H. and Sullivan, K. (2023) “A survey to assess animal methods bias in scientific publishing”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation. doi: 10.14573/altex.2210212.

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