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Transparency and disclosure, neutrality and balance: shared values or just shared words?
  1. Sander Greenland1,2
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  2. 2Department of Statistics, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA
  1. Correspondence to Professor Sander Greenland, Department of Epidemiology and Statistics, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1772, USA; lesdomes{at}


Values influence choice of methodology and thus influence every risk assessment and inference. To deal with this inescapable reality, we need to replace vague and unattainable calls for objectivity with more precise operational qualities. Among qualities that seem widely valued are transparency (openness) and neutrality (balance, fairness). Conformity of researchers to these qualities may be evaluated by considering whether their reports disclose key information desired by readers and whether their methodology encourages initial neutrality among hypotheses of concern. A case study is given in which two authors appearing to share these values and writing on ostensibly the same issues (disclosure and methodology) nonetheless appear to have very different concepts of what the values entail in practice. Thus, more precision is needed in explicating and implementing such values.

  • Conflict of interest
  • disclosure
  • epidemiology
  • ethics
  • methodology
  • sociology of knowledge

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  • Competing interests The author serves or has served as a plaintiff expert in lawsuits against manufacturers of medical devices, pharmaceuticals and other products.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.