BMC Psychology is launching a pilot study ahead of a planned randomised controlled trial to investigate whether a results-free peer review process will lead to less publication bias. While null results are seen as scientifically important, it is currently less likely that such studies will be published compared with those with positive results. It is postulated that results-free peer review could reduce bias, and increase publication of studies with strong rationale and design.
A press release from BioMed Central, which publishes the journal, explains that reviewers of research manuscripts submitted for publication will not be able to see the results or discussion sections until the end of the review process. A publication decision would instead be based on the study premise and methods only. After investigating whether results-free peer review is viable, a trial will compare it to the standard process.
While results-free peer review could be effective in reducing publication bias in the social sciences, some doubt its applicability to other fields, such as the physical sciences. In many fields, experimental techniques are fairly standard and the results and discussion sections are vital for judging the importance of the study.