The importance of publishing negative results

All of us likes positive results. But the fact is that they are the lower, especially when you talk about Science. Many scientific journals skew towards only publishing "positive" data; that is, data that comfortably proves a a priori principle. Others, like The All Results Journals are the home for negative data: experimental documentation of hypotheses that turn out not to be true, or other experiments that do not result to an advance of a individual hypothesis but are, on the other hand, a true rendering of that experiment. For example, if a researcher set up a cell-based experiment and the experiment did not work in a unique set of conditions, it would be very practical for other investigators to know this (to avoid time and money wasting and better planning). There is a huge  unexploited  resource of experimental knowledge locked up in laboratory notebooks that could be of great service to the scientific network at large. Many experiments don't succeed to produce results or expected discoveries. This high portion of "failed" research can still generate high quality knowledge. The main aspiration of The All Results Journals is to recover and publish these significant pieces of scientific material.

As they (The All Results Journals) go on publishing negative results, the newer generation of specialists will not waste their time and fund replicating the similar studies and finding the same results (negative in this case). Negative results are high-level pieces of wisdom that needs to be presented. Some authors have pointed out elsewhere the problem of publication bias, a well-known situation in clinical publications, in which positive results have a better chance of being published, are published faster, and are published in journals with higher impact factors. So this is a serious trouble.

As specialists we attempt for remarkable findings within biological systems that will further magnify our understanding of the human condition, aging, cancer, autoimmunity, etc.  Sometimes the pieces just don't add up. These negative results in Biology move our next step at the bench but are hardly ever published.  Bringing to light these types of insights under peer review will strengthen our way of life for the greater good. If you make accessible a manuscript about what didn't work you can build on the screw ups of others rather than simply duplicate them.  Instead of three steps forward and two steps back, Science could just move forward.

In Cancer research or chemotherapeutic development, for example, the trend is to publish data showing potency.  We offer that inefficacy could also be of great value to the scientific community. What medications failed, in what types of cancer and why; the latter question albeit very difficult to solve. One could imagine the same tendencies emerging from this this sort of work in terms of gene expression profiling, proteomics and biomarkers.  Agent X will not be powerful in cancer Y because of overexpression of biomarker Z. A manuscript focused on the inefficacy of a particular chemotherapeutic chemical could assist in moving the cancer biology field forward by offering a forum to share with the greater cancer research community the same negative findings that may have lead to the development of a highly efficient agent.

Basically the tip of the iceberg are being published in Science; only positive results. Initiatives like The All Results Journals:Chem concentrate on publishing carefully executed chemical studies producing negative results. These journals are trying to get out the water the complete iceberg (the total study, showing "All Results" of the scientist, the complete picture of his research topic, the real job done, not only the positive outcomes). Scientists have the duty to study Nature and document all, and this includes reporting the negative conclusions. Even more: the research projects might have been funded by government agencies, and that implies public financial resources... In part, funding agencies have some commitment; they should also foster the publishing of all results (specially negative results) not only positive.

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