The extent and consequences of p-hacking in science.

PLoS Biology 13(3):e1002106 (2015) PMID 25768323 PMCID PMC4359000

A focus on novel, confirmatory, and statistically significant results leads to substantial bias in the scientific literature. One type of bias, known as "p-hacking," occurs when researchers collect or select data or statistical analyses until nonsignificant results become significant. Here, we use text-mining to demonstrate that p-hacking is widespread throughout science. We then illustrate how one can test for p-hacking when performing a meta-analysis and show that, while p-hacking is probably common, its effect seems to be weak relative to the real effect sizes being measured. This result suggests that p-hacking probably does not drastically alter scientific consensuses drawn from meta-analyses.

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002106