Jun 20, 2014

Sources of negative results

If we look at the science blogs, scientific debates etc, it is increasingly common to find “the publication of negative results” as a central theme.

There are so many PhD students who venture into new areas of research and they should be aware of the stones they would find in the way. These obstacles slow not only their scientific progress but also the others researchers who decided to investigate the same scientific field.

The fact that these results are not considered good enough to be published in scientific journals of high impact, makes more than 60% of the results are not known. While it is relatively easy to publish positive findings (A correlates with B), it is almost impossible to make public the opposite – C doesn’t correlate with D – on the same topic, despite carefully designed and meticulously executed experiments and their brilliant analysis.

Many PhD students complete their doctoral thesis without brilliant results, and therefor without publication. Does this mean that the work they have developed is not interesting or couldn’t be useful to the scientific community? I definitely don’t think so.

And this is not the worst consequence since due to these results remaining unpublished, other students will finish their thesis with the same results and the same lack of publications, without mentioning the huge amount of money wasted in duplicated research that could have been employed in other topics.

Fortunately, as I said before, today there are a greater number of places for this phenomenon to be discussed and more and more scientific journals where negative results are published. Even now there are databases where all kinds of results can be deposited.

As you all know, since 2008 The All Results Journals has focused on recovering and publishing negative results. They firmly believe that these experiments should be taken into account as a vital key for the development of science. These negative results are the catalyst for real science-based empirical knowledge.

In addition to The All Results Journals, other journals that are committed to the publication of such results are:

f1000research.com: A part of digital biomedical publisher Faculty of 1000, F1000 research is an open access, peer reviewed journal. You can update newer versions of your paper as frequently as you like. And your first submission with negative findings 2013 can be published for free until September 30th.

PeerJ: an open access peer-reviewed journal. It charges a one off fee for an author, currently $99 for publishing of one paper. The papers are indexed in PubMed and other major databases.

Figshare: a free database, which allows uploading and sharing of data including papers. Each object has a unique Digital Object Identifier (DOI), which enables searching for and sharing the document.

ArXiv: a well-established database of preprints, mostly for math, physics and computational sciences, but they also include papers on quantitative biology. The papers are not peer-reviewed but they are curated to weed out pseudoscience and the papers can be found via Google Scholar.

The view that negative results are not worthless and make an important contribution to scientific knowledge is gaining momentum amongst researchers.

Do you know of other models or methods of publishing negative results?

Let’s publish negative results!

Written by Dra. Belén Suárez Jiménez for The All Results Journals.

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