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Keywords:

  • evidence-based medicine;
  • publication bias

Background: Free papers presented to the Annual Scientific Congress (ASC) of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) were reviewed for the years 1994, 1995 and 1996. Reports were examined for evidence of publication bias.

Methods: Suitable free papers were identified from the proceedings of the meetings and authors were contacted to obtain information about the research reported and any publications resulting from it.

Results: Responses were obtained from 302 of 576 presentations considered suitable. A total of 55% of responding authors reported publication of their paper. Basic science papers were most likely to be published. There was a significant bias in favour of publication of positive results (98 of 139 positive vs 76 of 159 inconclusive or negative reports; P < 0.01). Retrospective data were as likely to be published as prospective (51% and 57%, respectively). Reports describing studies of high-level evidence were more likely to be published in journals with a high impact factor.

Conclusion: The ASC is a comprehensive meeting that attracts a wide range of free papers from most sections of the RACS. There appears to be no evidence of bias in selection of papers for inclusion in the meeting but there is bias in the subsequent publication, which favours positive reports.