Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of preclinical studies: publication bias in laboratory animal experiments

D A Korevaar, L Hooft, G ter Riet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In 2006, Peters et al. identified 86 systematic reviews (SRs) of laboratory animal experiments (LAEs). They found 46 LAE meta-analyses (MAs), often of poor quality. Six of these 46 MAs tried to assess publication bias. Publication bias is the phenomenon of an experiment's results determining its likelihood of publication, often over-representing positive findings. As such, publication bias is the Achilles heel of any SR. Since researchers increasingly become aware of the fact that SRs directly support the 'three Rs', we expect the number of SRs of LAEs will sharply increase. Therefore, it is useful to see how publication bias is dealt with. Our objective was to identify all SRs and MAs of LAEs where the purpose was to inform human health published between July 2005 and 2010 with special attention to MAs' quality features and publication bias. We systematically searched Medline, Embase, Toxline and ScienceDirect from July 2005 to 2010, updating Peters' review. LAEs not directly informing human health or concerning fundamental biology were excluded. We found 2780 references of which 163 met the inclusion criteria: 158 SRs, of which 30 performed an MA, and five MAs without an SR. The number of SRs roughly doubled every three years since 1997. The number of MAs roughly doubled every five years since 1999. Compared with before July 2005, more MAs were preceded by SR and reported on (quality) features of included studies and heterogeneity. A statistically significant proportion of MAs considered publication bias (26/35) and tried to formally assess it (21/35).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)225-30
Number of pages6
JournalLaboratory Animals
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Animal Experimentation
  • Humans
  • Laboratory Animal Science
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Publication Bias
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of preclinical studies: publication bias in laboratory animal experiments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this