Does All Morphology Research Require Stereology?

During the past decade unbiased stereology approaches have become far more prevalent in the biosciences. Still, bioscientists often approach me and other stereologists with publications using biased stereology (assumption- and model-based methods) to quantify morphological endpoints.

The questioner typically has a statement and/or question such as, “I want to quantify the same endpoint, e.g., total cell number. If reviewers accepted this paper without stereology, why shouldn’t I use their approach?”

Though published in reputable, peer-reviewed journals, more often than not these papers were typically published a dozen or more years ago.

Today, reviewers for journals, funding orgs, and regulatory agencies increasingly prefer studies with morphological endpoints based on unbiased stereology, rather than unverifiable assumptions and questionable models, e.g., “assume a cell is a sphere.” This trend shows no evidence of abating in the near future.

The bottom line is that no one can guarantee that stereology or any other method will ensure acceptance by a particular journal. It’s important to remember that publication depends on a number of factors: how well the authors avoids introducing bias; how much weight the authors placed on the results; other data supporting the conclusions; and the specific journal, editors, reviewers, all of which may have different policies toward the methods underlying morphometric studies.



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