While most scientific papers (and news stories) trumpet the latest discoveries, The All Results Journals is taking the opposite approach. This new journals publishes the results of experiments that failed to produce the expected discoveries. The concept of a "negative result" is sometimes difficult for a non-scientist to grasp. On the simplest level, a negative result is what happens when the experiment fails. You didn't do it right, or your chemicals didn't work properly. That's the sort of "failure" all of us remember from high-school chemistry class. But other times, it's an experiment that did work, but is being misinterpreted as a failure because it challenges the prevailing dogma.
A classic example of this is the work of Nobel-winning geneticist, Barbara McClintock. When she started, the scientific community believed that DNA was rock-solid, and changed very slowly over time. But that was wrong. McClintock performed a series of experiments that seemed to show that genes are incredibly plastic. They can move around and even hop between organisms. Because her results challenged the accepted dogma and no one believed that DNA was so malleable, McClintock's results were considered to be wrong. It wasn't until years later that she was able to prove her experiments had worked. Today, McClintock's "negative results" are considered to be classic experiments in the history of biology.
The All Results Journals is edited by David Alcantara, a Ph.D in Chemistry at Harvard. He came up with the idea for the journal while talking about experiments that failed to do what they were supposed to. Usually, when an experiment fails to produce the data a scientist wants, he or she will simply throw out the results and try again (or try something else). But Alcantara realized that sometimes the negative result is the right answer … and there should be a way for scientists to share these results. It's an online journal, and TOTAL Open Access which means it hasn't any publsihing fee to authors or readers, the articles are available to just about anyone who wants to read it.
The All Results Journals are looking for negative results that challenge the prevailing beliefs and dogmas. There are 4 fields that focus on publishing:
- Negative Results in Chemistry
- Negative Results in Biology
- Negative Results in Physics
- Negative Results in Nanotechnology
They are interested in negative results that are actually "right," but which aren't being seen properly because they're unexpected. Often, scientific results are prejudiced by what the scientists expect to see. If the results don't fit their pre-conceived notions, then they're likely to reject the experiment as a failure or a negative result, and not bother trying to publish the results.
It's such an unconventional, groundbreaking idea that some scientists thought the new journal was a joke, a place where they could run funny stories or bogus experiments. Others thought it was a dumping ground where they could publish their poorly-conducted experiments. But The All Results Journals team are keeping very high standards for the new journal. They insist that even though the experiments they publish didn't work in the way that was expected, they still have to be conducted rigorously, and be repeatable. To that end, each paper submitted to the journal is peer reviewed by other experts in the field, just as it would be for any other high-quality journal.