Discussion paper

DP17331 The Null Result Penalty

In experiments with economists, we measure how the evaluation of research studies depends on whether the study yielded a null result. Studies with null results are perceived to be less publishable, of lower quality, less important, and less precisely estimated than studies with statistically significant results, even when holding constant all other study features, including the precision of estimates. The penalty for null results is of similar magnitude for various subgroups of researchers, from PhD students to editors. The null result penalty is larger when
experts predict a non-null result and when statistical uncertainty is communicated in terms of p-values rather than standard errors. Our findings have implications for understanding mechanisms underlying publication bias and the communication of research findings.


Chopra, F, I Haaland, C Roth and A Stegmann (2022), ‘DP17331 The Null Result Penalty‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17331. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17331