why 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 a priori principle. Others, like The All Results Journals are the home for negative data: experimental documentation of hypotheses that become not to be true, or other experiments that do not contribute to an advance of a explicit 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 specific 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 untapped resource of experimental data secured 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 portion of "failed" research can still generate high quality data. 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) continue publishing negative results, the newer generation of specialists will not spend their time and revenue duplicating the similar studies and finding the same results (negative in this case). Negative results are high-level pieces of knowledge that is worthy to be presented. Some authors have pointed out elsewhere the problem of publication bias, a well-known phenomenon in clinical literature, in which affirmative results have a better chance of being published, are published faster, and are published in journals with higher impact factors. So this is a real trouble.

As scientists we struggle for remarkable analysis within biological systems that will further boost our understanding of the human condition, aging, cancer, autoimmunity, etc.  Occasionally 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 boost our modern society for the greater good. If you make accessible a manuscript about what didn't work you can build on the pit falls of others rather than simply reduplicate 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 pattern is to publish data showing effectiveness.  We  propose that inefficacy could also be of remarkable relevance to the scientific community. What agents failed, in what types of cancer and why; the latter question albeit hard to answer. One could visualize 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 paper focused on the inefficacy of a particular chemotherapeutic compound could help out in moving the cancer biology field forward by offering a community forum to share with the more significant 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. Projects like The All Results Journals:Chem target publishing carefully carried out chemical studies delivering negative results. These journals are trying to get out the water the complete iceberg (the whole 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 duty 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 means public money... In part, funding agencies have some responsibility; they should also foster the publishing of all results (specially negative results) not only positive.

2 comments: