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 more easily proves a theorem. Others, like The All Results Journals are the home for negative data: experimental documents of hypotheses that turn out not to be true, or other experiments that do not contribute to an advance of a individual hypothesis but are, nevertheless, 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 specific set of conditions, it would be very practical for other researchers to know this (to avoid time and money wasting and better planning). There is a huge available resource of experimental data confined in laboratory notebooks that could be of great service to the scientific society at large. Many experiments don't succeed to produce results or expected discoveries. This high volume of "failed" research can still generate high quality wisdom. The main intention of The All Results Journals is to recover and publish these precious pieces of scientific knowledge.

As they (The All Results Journals) go on publishing negative results, the newer generation of scholars 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 expertise that needs to be published. Some authors have pointed out elsewhere the problem of publication bias, a well-known problem 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 specialists we attempt for remarkable findings within biological systems that will further widen 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 drive our next step at the bench but are infrequently published.  Bringing to light these types of observations under peer review will enhance our civilization for the greater good. If you make available a manuscript about what didn't work you can build on the complications of others rather than simply repeat them.  Instead of three steps forward and two steps back, Science could just move forward.

In Cancer studies or chemotherapeutic development, for example, the tendency is to publish data showing effectiveness.  We offer that inefficacy could also be of good importance to the scientific community. What components failed, in what types of cancer and why; the latter question albeit hard to solve. One could envision the same trends 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 manuscript focused on the inefficacy of a particular chemotherapeutic agent could help 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 made a contribution to the development of a highly successful 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 rigorously performed chemical studies generating negative results. These journals are trying to get out the water the complete iceberg (the entire 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 document everything, and this includes documenting the negative results. Even more: the research projects might have been funded by nation agencies, and that means public funds... In part, funding agencies have some liability; they should also push the publishing of all results (specially negative results) not only positive.

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