The importance of publishing negative results

Everyone likes positive results. But the fact is that they are the less, especially when you talk about Science. Many scientific journals bias towards only publishing "positive" data; that is, data that more easily proves a hypothesis. Others, like The All Results Journals are the home for negative data: experimental documents of hypotheses that end up not to be true, or other experiments that do not result to an advance of a specific theorem but are, nevertheless, a true rendering of that research. 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 significant for other investigators to know this (to avoid time and money wasting and better planning). There is a huge unused resource of experimental information convicted in laboratory notebooks that could be of great service to the scientific society at large. Many experiments fail to produce results or expected discoveries. This high portion of "failed" research can still generate high quality information. The main objective of The All Results Journals is to recover and publish these precious pieces of scientific material.

As they (The All Results Journals) keep going publishing negative results, the newest generation of experts will not misuse their time and Funds replicating the same 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 writings, in which optimistic results have a better chance of being published, are published faster, and are published in journals with larger impact factors. So this is a serious trouble.

As scientists we attempt for remarkable analysis within biological systems that will further broaden our knowledge of the human condition, aging, cancer, autoimmunity, etc.  From time to time the pieces just don't add up. These negative results in Biology force our next step at the bench but are hardly ever published.  Bringing to light these types of finding under peer review will improve our modern society for the greater good. If you make available a paper about what didn't work you can build on the problems of others rather than simply repeat them.  Alternatively 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 effectiveness.  We offer that inefficacy could also be of great relevance to the scientific community. What agents failed, in what types of cancer and why; the latter question albeit very difficult to solve. One could visualize the same tendencies emerging from this type of work in terms of gene expression profiling, proteomics and biomarkers.  Agent X will not be highly effective in cancer Y because of overexpression of biomarker Z. A paper focused on the inefficacy of a particular chemotherapeutic agent could assist in moving the cancer biology field forward by offering a discussion forum to share with the greater cancer research community the same negative findings that may have contributed to the development of a strongly efficient agent.

Just the tip of the iceberg are being published in Science; only positive results. Initiatives like The All Results Journals:Chem concentrate on publishing rigorously carried out chemical studies generating negative results. These journals are trying to get out the water the complete iceberg (the full study, showing "All Results" of the author, the complete picture of his research topic, the real job done, not only the positive outcomes). Researchers have the commitment to study Nature and inform everything, and this includes reporting the negative findings. Even more: the research projects might have been funded by government agencies, and that implies public funds... In part, funding agencies have some liability; they should also encourage the publishing of all results (specially negative results) not only positive.

No comments:

Post a Comment