A systematic review of context bias in invasion biology



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The language that scientists use to frame biological invasions may reveal inherent bias - including how data are interpreted. A frequent critique of invasion biology is the use of value-laden language that may indicate context bias. Here we use a systematic study of language and interpretation in papers drawn from invasion biology to evaluate whether there is a link between the framing of papers and the interpretation of results. We also examine any trends in context bias in biological invasion research. We examined 651 peer-reviewed invasive species competition studies and implemented a rigorous systematic review to examine bias in the presentation and interpretation of native and invasive competition in invasion biology. We predicted that bias in the presentation of invasive species is increasing, as suggested by several authors, and that bias against invasive species would result in misinterpreting their competitive dominance in correlational observational studies compared to causative experimental studies. We indeed found evidence of bias in the presentation and interpretation of invasive species research; authors often introduced research with invasive species in a negative context and study results were interpreted against invasive species more in correlational studies. However, we also found a distinct decrease in those biases since the mid-2000s. Given that there have been several waves of criticism from scientists both inside and outside invasion biology, our evidence suggests that the subdiscipline has somewhat self-corrected apparent biases.

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competition; invasive species; non-native species; self-correction; systematic review


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Biology Department

A systematic review of context bias in invasion biology