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Evolution. 2005 Feb;59(2):464-8.

The file-drawer problem revisited: a general weighted method for calculating fail-safe numbers in meta-analysis.

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  • 1Center for Evolutionary Functional Genomics, Biodesign Institute, and School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85287-4501, USA.


Quantitative literature reviews such as meta-analysis are becoming common in evolutionary biology but may be strongly affected by publication biases. Using fail-safe numbers is a quick way to estimate whether publication bias is likely to be a problem for a specific study. However, previously suggested fail-safe calculations are unweighted and are not based on the framework in which most meta-analyses are performed. A general, weighted fail-safe calculation, grounded in the meta-analysis framework, applicable to both fixed- and random-effects models, is proposed. Recent meta-analyses published in Evolution are used for illustration.

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