- Authors writing up results of cardiovascular randomized controlled trials (RCTs) often spin statistically nonsignificant primary findings in ways that do not match what the data say.
- These authors say 67% of the main text of published articles contain some kind of spin to gloss findings.
Why this matters
- Authors say clinicians should be aware that peer review does not always catch spin.
- Editor-in-chief of JAMA Network Open, which published these findings, commented that “we live in an age of spin,” and that the scientific literature is not immune.
- Accompanying editorial says such spin can lead to “exuberant adoption of marginally effective, useless, or even harmful clinical interventions” and create patient anxiety.
- 57% (95% CI, 47%-67%) of abstracts contained spin.
- 67% (95% CI, 57%-75%) of main text articles contained spin.
- 11% (95% CI, 6%-19%) had spin in their titles.
- 54% (95% CI, 44%-64%) had spin in the conclusions.
- Spin included methods misreporting, shifting objectives/hypothesis to match findings, muddying prior vs post hoc analyses, selective report, misleading interpretation, P value misinterpretation, unfounded extrapolation.
- Analysis of 93 “high-impact” RCTs (January 2015-December 2017) with nonsignificant findings for a primary outcome.
- Funding: None disclosed.
- Short publication time frame, a few select journals represented.