Journals of Negative Results

Science holds a suspicious bias against publishing negative results. Negative data is still data, if it is unequivocally so. If someone undertakes to demonstrate a relationship which we would expect, based on existing theory, to exist, and that relationship cannot be found, then that person has made a significant contribution to our understanding. If you in your work as a research scientist have ever been startled to discover such a missing relationship, then you probably didn’t publish or couldn’t publish on that result. Perhaps some other scientist is even now repeating your experiment, because you were unable to reach them with this information through the typical approach of academic publishing. When they get their results, they probably won’t publish either.

This is macho nonsense, and looks like a serious hole in the fuselage of the scientific enterprise.

I sometimes complain that I’d like to found a “Journal of Negative Results” to counter this bias. It turns out one already exists (hooray!):

Journal of Negative Results

They’ve been publishing studies which “test novel or established hypotheses/theories that yield negative or dissenting results” since 2004. Albeit sparsely. From the first volume, Temperature and desiccation do not affect aggregation behaviour in high shore littorinids in north-east England, is just the kind of study we need to see.

Even more exciting is that there is also a real, very serious, not-just-to-make-a-point,

Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine

which has been been publishing peer-reviewed work since 2002. For example, one of the most-accessed articles from the journal is Quantitative competitive reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction is not a useful method for quantification of CD4 and CD8 cell status during HIV infection.

Next step: get the JoNegRes for Ecology and Environmental Biology up to full steam. I need that information.

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