Sample size evolution in neuroimaging research: An evaluation of highly-cited studies (1990–2012) and of latest practices (2017–2018) in high-impact journals
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Szucs, D., & Ioannidis, J. (2020). Sample size evolution in neuroimaging research: An evaluation of highly-cited studies (1990–2012) and of latest practices (2017–2018) in high-impact journals. NeuroImage https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117164
We evaluated 1038 of the most cited structural and functional (fMRI) magnetic resonance brain imaging papers (1161 studies) published during 1990–2012 and 270 papers (300 studies) published in top neuroimaging journals in 2017 and 2018. 96% of highly cited experimental fMRI studies had a single group of participants and these studies had median sample size of 12, highly cited clinical fMRI studies (with patient participants) had median sample size of 14.5, and clinical structural MRI studies had median sample size of 50. The sample size of highly cited experimental fMRI studies increased at a rate of 0.74 participant/year and this rate of increase was commensurate with the median sample sizes of neuroimaging studies published in top neuroimaging journals in 2017 (23 participants) and 2018 (24 participants). Only 4 of 131 papers in 2017 and 5 of 142 papers in 2018 had pre-study power calculations, most for single t-tests and correlations. Only 14% of highly cited papers reported the number of excluded participants whereas 49% of papers with their own data in 2017 and 2018 reported excluded participants. Publishers and funders should require pre-study power calculations necessitating the specification of effect sizes. The field should agree on universally required reporting standards. Reporting formats should be standardized so that crucial study parameters could be identified unequivocally.
The study received funding from the James S McDonnell foundation through the James S. McDonnell Foundation 21st Century Science Initiative in Understanding Human Cognition - Scholar Award (DS; No 220020370). METRICS is supported by a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. The work of John Ioannidis is supported by an unrestricted gift from Sue and Bob O’Donnell.
James S McDonnell Foundation (220020370)
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.117164
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/308894
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Licence URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/