Selective reporting bias occurs when only certain information is reported while other information is not, which results in a skewed view of the real situation. Filtering data in or out can be used to support an agenda which may or may not be innocuous.


Alternative terms: publication bias, outcome reporting bias


Selective reporting bias may include::

(1) a failure to report either a failure or success (poor or good performance) for a therapy or diagnostic test

(2) "cleaning up the data" so that results look more convincing than they actually are


Reasons why selective reporting bias may occur:

(1) a granting agency or journal may prefer a winner rather than a loser

(2) a company may think that any negative information may harm the sale of a product

(3) a researcher may not want to report something that goes against the existing literature or which might be construed as a failure

(4) a researcher may want to climb on a popular bandwagon

(5) a clique in power only wants things published that support the party line


Consequences may include:

(1) Patients undergo a test or receive a therapy which does not perform as expected.

(2) Patients may undergo a therapy with serious side effects.

(3) Patients may not receive a therapy which would have been beneficial to them.


This form of bias needs to be distinguished from "reporting bias", which may used as a an alternative term for recall bias.


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