Jamie DeCoster, Erin A. Sparks, Jordan C. Sparks, Glenn G. Sparks, and Cheri W. Sparks
Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning
Researchers commonly explore their data in multiple ways before choosing the analyses they will present in the final versions of their papers. While this improves the chances of finding publishable results, it introduces an “opportunistic bias,” such that the reported effects are stronger or otherwise more supportive of the researcher’s theories than they would be without the exploratory process. Scientists across many disciplines are increasing their concern about how these biases are affecting the quality of research. After discussing why this occurs, we describe the research practices that create opportunistic biases, consider the impact of opportunistic biases on scientific research, and present a multifaceted solution to ameliorate these effects.
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