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Quantifying and addressing the prevalence and bias of study designs in the environmental and social sciences

Christie, Alec P., Abecasis, David, Adjeroud, Mehdi, Alonso, Juan C., Amano, Tatsuya, Anton, Alvaro, Baldigo, Barry P., Barrientos, Rafael, Bicknell, Jake E., Buhl, Deborah A., and others. (2020) Quantifying and addressing the prevalence and bias of study designs in the environmental and social sciences. Nature Communications, 11 . Article Number 6377. E-ISSN 2041-1723. (doi:10.1038/s41467-020-20142-y) (KAR id:83784)

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Official URL
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20142-y

Abstract

Building trust in science and evidence-based decision-making depends heavily on the credibility of studies and their findings. Researchers employ many different study designs that vary in their risk of bias to evaluate the true effect of interventions or impacts. Here, we empirically quantify, on a large scale, the prevalence of different study designs and the magnitude of bias in their estimates. Randomised designs and controlled observational designs with pre-intervention sampling were used by just 23% of intervention studies in biodiversity conservation, and 36% of intervention studies in social science. We demonstrate, through pairwise within-study comparisons across 49 environmental datasets, that these types of designs usually give less biased estimates than simpler observational designs. We propose a model-based approach to combine study estimates that may suffer from different levels of study design bias, discuss the implications for evidence synthesis, and how to facilitate the use of more credible study designs.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1038/s41467-020-20142-y
Uncontrolled keywords: study design
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH541 Ecology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH75 Conservation (Biology)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Depositing User: Jake Bicknell
Date Deposited: 28 Oct 2020 10:14 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 14:15 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/83784 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Bicknell, Jake E.: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6831-627X
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