Short Communication Creative Commons, CC-BY
What Some Books Leave Out: Recent Cases of Negative Bias
*Corresponding author: Walter R Schumm, Department of Applied Human Sciences, Kansas State University, USA
Received: August 02, 2021; Published: August 18, 2021
Citation bias and confirmation bias, as well as various forms of scientific misconduct, are well known concerns within the scientific community. Such types of bias usually oversell scientific or theoretical arguments. Here another type of bias, negative bias, is when authors undersell their arguments by overlooking scientific evidence that would support or would have supported their arguments. Scholars need to be aware of the potential for both types of bias, positive and negative, when evaluating the research literature and preparing literature reviews.
Keywords: Confirmation Bias; Negative Bias; Scientific Misconduct; Literature Review; History of Islam; Gulf War Illnesses; Anthrax Vaccine; Pyridostigmine Bromide; Petra; Mecca
Abbreviations: PB: Pyridostigmine Bromide; GWI: Gulf War Illness(es)
Books often garner significant attention for their authors, but do their contents tell the whole story? Popularity may not mean scientific completeness. Previously, scientific citation bias has been examined with respect to journal articles , but here are presented two examples where omission of important research information may leave readers with a less complete understanding of the topics considered within books, a concept we label “negative bias.”
History of Islam?
As a first example, Spencer  discussed the work of Dan Gibson [3,4] and his intellectual opponent David King, who argued over whether the original holy city of Islam was Petra or Mecca. Spencer’s concern is the limited available information on whether the prophet Muhammad existed as well as on much of the rest of the early history of Islam. However, Spencer fails to mention that the theories of Gibson and King have been tested scientifically, with clear support for Gibson’s theory about Petra during the first one hundred years of Islam and also with support for some of King’s theories for mosques built in later centuries [5,6]. Thus, Spencer in this area - undersells his arguments about the early history of Islam, although both he and Gibson have provided extensive and helpful corroborating evidence in many other areas.
History of Gulf War Illnesses (GWI)
As a second example, Saran  has provided an excellent discussion of legal issues surrounding the military’s use of anthrax vaccine and other medical interventions during the first Persian Gulf War and afterwards. He mentions the work of Russ Dingle, major, U.S. Air Force Reserve, who had found numerous flaws in the production (and probably the transportation) of the anthrax vaccine [7: 234-235] and that of Lea Steele  who had found issues with the health of soldiers who had received vaccines for the first Persian Gulf War. As with Spencer , Saran also undersells his case, overlooking research evidence that the original report on anthrax vaccine effectiveness [9,10] used an inaccurate statistical test had the best statistical test been used, the effectiveness of the vaccine would not have been significant and that the second report  was only statistically significant due to an unexpected rash of anthrax cases at the last of four mills being used as test sites that occurred remarkably within a few weeks of the start of the vaccination program at the fourth mill.
Furthermore, the numbers of participants in the testing changed without explanation in the second report and four mill workers died of inhalation anthrax, in part because the informed consent protocols in place did not allow for workers in the control group being informed of their potential for contracting anthrax, especially inhalation anthrax, and how to obtain medical help to prevent progression of the disease [12-19]. Other reports have presented evidence about toxic exposures to soldiers during the first Persian Gulf War , including nerve agents , pyridostigmine bromide tablets [22-25], vaccines [26-29] and other related factors [30- 34]. Recent estimates are that one quarter to one third of Gulf War veterans experienced long-term health problems associated with toxic exposures [33:468]. In conclusion, there is a substantial amount of scientific evidence that toxic exposures during the brief first Persian Gulf War did adversely impact the long-term health of many military personnel deployed to that region, evidence that would bolster Saran’s  case.
By overlooking scientific evidence in favor of their own arguments, book authors can undersell the evidence for their own points, another type of bias which is here labeled “negative bias” different than citation  or confirmation bias [35,36]. Scholars need to be aware of the possibility of these different types of bias when they seek to understand and interpret scientific literature, as well as various forms of scientific misconduct [37,38].
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- Spencer R (2021) Did Muhammad exist? An inquiry into Islam’s obscure origins [revised and expanded edition]. New York, Post Hill Press (Bombardier Books).
- Gibson D (2011) Quranic geography. Vancouver, Canada: Independent Scholars Press.
- Gibson D (2017) Early Islamic qiblas: A survey of mosques built between 1AH/622CEand 263AH/876CE. Vancouver, Canada: Independent Scholars Press.
- Schumm WR (2020) How accurately could early (622-900 CE) Muslins determine the direction of prayers (qibla)? Religions 11(3): 102.
- Schumm WR, Goldstein Z (2020) A statistical assessment of early Islamic history and the qibla: Comparing the theories of David King and Dan Gibson. Open Access Journal of Archaeology and Anthropology 3(1): 1-20.
- Saran DF (2020) United States v. Members of the Armed Forces: The truth behind the Department of Defense’s Anthrax Vaccine Immunization Program. Coppell, Texas: Author.
- Steele L (2000) Prevalence and patterns of Gulf War illness in Kansas veterans: Association of symptoms with characteristics of person, place, and time of military service. American Journal of Epidemiology 152(10): 992-1002.
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- Schumm WR (2005) Was it statistically legitimate to combine data from the four textile mills in Brachman et al. (1962) study of the effectiveness of a human anthrax vaccine? Medical Veritas 2(1): 342-343.
- Schumm WR (2005) Were the rights of human subjects violated at the Arms Mill in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1957 during the human anthrax vaccine trials? Medical Veritas 2(1): 344-347.
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- Schumm WR, Webb FJ, Bollman SR, Jurich AP, Reppert EJ, et al. (2004) Predicting self-reported exposure to nerve agents by Reserve Component personnel during the first Persian Gulf War. Psychological Reports 94(3): 989-992.
- Schumm WR, Reppert EJ, Jurich AP, Bollman SR, Castelo CS, et al. (2001) Pyridostigmine bromide and the long-term subjective health status of a sample of female Reserve Component Gulf War veterans: A brief report. Psychological Reports 88(1): 306-308.
- Schumm WR, Reppert EJ, Jurich AP, Bollman SR, Webb FJ, et al. (2002) Pyridostigmine bromide and the long-term subjective health status of a sample of over 700 male Reserve Component Gulf War era veterans. Psychological Reports 90(3): 707-721.
- Schumm WR, Jurich AP, Webb FJ, Bollman SR, Reppert EJ, et al. (2005) Exposure to anthrax vaccination and pyridostigmine brottermide (PB) tablets as associated with geographic location during the first Persian Gulf War. Medical Veritas 2(2): 521-525.
- Schumm WR, Jurich AP, Bollman SR, Webb FJ, Castelo CS (2005) The long term safety of anthrax vaccine, pyridostigmine bromide (PB) tablets, and other risk factors among Reserve Component veterans of the first Persian Gulf War. Medical Veritas 2(1): 348-362.
- Golomb BA (1999) Pyridostigmine bromide, Vol. 2: A review of the scientific literature as it pertains to Gulf War illnesses. Santa Monica, CA: Rand Corporation.
- Golomb BA (2012) Immunization (Review of the scientific literature as it pertains to Gulf War illnesses). San Diego, CA: Author (unreleased by the Rand Corporation, Vol. 3).
- Schumm WR, Reppert EJ, Jurich AP, Bollman SR, Webb FJ, Castelo CS, Stever JC, Sanders D, Bonjour GN, Crow JR, Fink CJ. (2002) Self-reported changes in subjective health and anthrax vaccination as reported by over 900 Persian Gulf War era veterans. Psychological Reports 90(2): 639-653.
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- Schumm WR, Crawford DW, Lockett L, AlRashed A, Ateeq AB (2021) Nine ways to detect possible scientific misconduct in research with small (N<200) samples. Psychology Research and Applications, in press.