Negative results for advancing science

Everybody likes positive results. But the fact is that they are the less, especially when you talk about Science. Many scientific journals skew towards only publishing "positive" data; that is, data that successfully proves a hypothesis. Others, like The All Results Journals are the home for negative data: experimental records of hypotheses that End up not to be true, or other experiments that do not contribute to an advance of a certain theorem but are, still, a true rendering of that test. 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 significant for other experts to know this (to avoid time and money wasting and better planning). There is a huge available resource of experimental facts locked up in laboratory notebooks that could be of great service to the scientific community at large. Many experiments fail to produce results or expected discoveries. This high portion of "failed" research can still generate high quality wisdom. The main purpose of The All Results Journals is to recover and publish these significant pieces of scientific information.

As they (The All Results Journals) carry on publishing negative results, the faster growing generation of doctors will not spend their time and money replicating the same studies and finding the same results (negative in this case). Negative results are high-level pieces of information that needs to be published. Some authors have pointed out elsewhere the problem of publication bias, a well-known problem in clinical publications, in which optimistic results have a better chance of being published, are published quicker, and are published in journals with larger impact factors. So this is a real problem.

As scientists we attempt for remarkable observations within biological systems that will further boost our knowledge of the human condition, maturing, cancer, autoimmunity, etc.  Occasionally the pieces just don't add up. These negative results in Biology move our next step at the bench but are almost never published.  Bringing to light these types of finding under peer review will enhance our modern society for the greater good. If you make available a article about what didn't work you can build on the complications 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 suggest that inefficacy could also be of good value to the scientific community. What agents failed, in what types of cancer and why; the latter question albeit very hard to explain. One could consider the same tendencies emerging from this this sort of work in terms of gene expression profiling, proteomics and biomarkers.  Agent X will not be good 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 discussion forum to share with the increasing cancer research community the same negative findings that may have made a contribution to the development of a extremely useful agent.

Basically the tip of the iceberg are being published in Science; only positive results. Projects like The All Results Journals:Chem concentrate on publishing rigorously carried out chemical studies yielding negative results. These journals are trying to get out the water the complete iceberg (the entire 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 commitment to study Nature and document all, and this includes documenting the negative findings. Even more: the research projects might have been funded by nation agencies, and that means public revenue... In part, funding agencies have some liability; they should also foster the publishing of all results (specially negative results) not only positive.

1 comment:

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