The importance of publishing negative results

Everyone likes positive results. But the fact is that they are the fewer, especially when you talk about Science. Many scientific journals skew towards only publishing "positive" data; that is, data that comfortably proves a theory. Others, like The All Results Journals are the home for negative data: experimental documents of hypotheses that come out not to be true, or other experiments that do not contribute to an advance of a particular theory but are, nonetheless, a true rendering of that trial. 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 researchers to know this (to avoid time and money wasting and better planning). There is a huge untapped resource of experimental facts locked away in laboratory notebooks that could be of great service to the scientific network at large. Many experiments fail to produce results or expected discoveries. This high volume of "failed" research can still generate high quality knowledge. The main objective of The All Results Journals is to recover and publish these valuable pieces of scientific information.

As they (The All Results Journals) carry on publishing negative results, the newest generation of scholars will not spend their time and funding duplicating the same studies and finding the same results (negative in this case). Negative results are high-level pieces of wisdom that needs to be published. Some authors have pointed out elsewhere the problem of publication bias, a well-known phenomenon in clinical documents, in which affirmative results have a better chance of being published, are published earlier, and are published in journals with larger impact factors. So this is a serious trouble.

As researchers we attempt for remarkable analysis within biological systems that will further widen our awareness of the human condition, maturing, cancer, autoimmunity, etc.  Sometimes the pieces just don't add up. These negative results in Biology push our next step at the bench but are rarely published.  Bringing to light these types of observations under peer review will strengthen our world for the greater good. If you make readily available a article about what didn't work you can build on the pit falls of others rather than simply duplicate them.  As an alternative 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  propose that inefficacy could also be of remarkable relevance to the scientific community. What medications failed, in what types of cancer and why; the latter question albeit hard to explain. One could consider the same trends emerging from this this sort 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 chemical could help out in moving the cancer biology field forward by offering a forum to share with the increasing cancer research community the same negative findings that may have contributed to the development of a very powerful agent.

Just the tip of the iceberg are being published in Science; only positive results. Initiatives like The All Results Journals:Chem focus on publishing rigorously performed 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 author, the complete image of his research topic, the real job done, not only the positive outcomes). Researchers have the commitment to study Nature and describe all, and this includes documenting the negative results. Even more: the research projects might have been funded by government agencies, and that implies public funds... In part, funding agencies have some commitment; they should also push the publishing of all results (specially negative results) not only positive.

1 comment:

  1. Seriously, no comments for this amazing piece of work? I wonder why people attach this stigma with the word `negative result`. Closing your eyes to negative results will only make others repeat the same. :-)

    You can say that people publishing positive results are more interested in showcasing their work, while those publishing negative results are probably more altruistic. :D That sounds quite dramatic.