Scientific Reports (Jan 2021)

Biases in ecological research: attitudes of scientists and ways of control

  • Elena L. Zvereva,
  • Mikhail V. Kozlov

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 1
pp. 1 – 9


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Abstract The properties of the human mind affect the quality of scientific knowledge through the insertion of unconscious biases during the research process. These biases frequently cause overestimation of the effects under study, thereby violating the reproducibility of the research and potentially leading to incorrect conclusions in subsequent research syntheses. We explored the level of knowledge about biases and attitudes to this problem by analysing 308 responses of ecology scientists to a specifically developed survey. We show that knowledge about biases and attitude towards biases depend on the scientist’s career stage, gender and affiliation country. Early career scientists are more concerned about biases, know more about measures to avoid biases, and twice more frequently have learned about biases from their university courses when compared with senior scientists. The respondents believe that their own studies are less prone to biases than are studies by other scientists, which hampers the control of biases in one’s own research. We conclude that education about biases is necessary, but not yet sufficient, to avoid biases because the unconscious origin of biases necessitates external intervention to combat them. Obligatory reporting of measures taken against biases in all relevant manuscripts will likely enhance the reproducibility of scientific results.