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June 24, 1998

Time Lag Bias in Publishing Clinical Trials

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;279(24):1952-1953. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-279-24-jac80011

To the Editor.— In his interesting study, Dr Ioannidis1 explores the factors contributing to publication bias in clinical trials. Ascertainment of a differential publication lag after the completion of trials in the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) field provides more evidence for publication bias. Nevertheless, I have reservations about his suggestion that publication lag is a more exact term than publication bias in efficacy trials. Stern and Simes2 identified the delay in the publication of studies with negative results as an additional important factor in publication bias. In this context, I find the efforts of Drs Jadad and Rennie3 to coincide the term time lag bias to the findings of Ioannidis' study, for a delay in publication of results, unfortunate. In an open society, divergence of perspectives provides a healthy environment to discuss the differences and is the main source for progression. However, in scientific circles, the departure from a well-established and defined4 term, such as publication bias, should emerge from a real need for clarification. At present, publication lag is a built-in feature for the time dimension of the term publication bias.

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