The redaction of even a small amount of information might make the data from a project fit our theory/hypothesis but it is misconduct and can render a project irreproducible. This is one of the reasons why, when a project can’t be reproduced, it can raise serious questions about the project. The tweaking of biomedical research can place patients at risk and seriously compromise the scientific literature. This is why institutions must act harshly if a biomedical researcher fabricates or falsifies data/results.
A concerning amount of biomedical research is not reproducible. Unreliable results impede empirical progress in medical science, ultimately putting patients at risk. Many proximal causes of this irreproducibility have been identified, a major one being inappropriate statistical methods and analytical choices by investigators. Within this, we formally quantify the impact of inappropriate redaction beyond a threshold value in biomedical science. This is effectively truncation of a dataset by removing extreme data points, and we elucidate its potential to accidentally or deliberately engineer a spurious result in significance testing. We demonstrate that the removal of a surprisingly small number of data points can be used to dramatically alter a result. It is unknown how often redaction bias occurs in the broader literature, but given the risk of distortion to the literature involved, we suggest that it must be studiously avoided, and mitigated with approaches to counteract any potential malign effects to the research quality of medical science.
Grimes, D.R. & Heathers, J. (2021) The new normal? Redaction bias in biomedical science. Royal Society. Open Science. 8211308211308
Publisher (Open Access): https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsos.211308