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The Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the well-that-didn't-work dept.

Idle 153

SilverTooth writes "Often, when watching a science documentary or reading an article, it seems that the scientists were executing a well-laid out plan that led to their discovery. Anyone familiar with the process of scientific discovery realizes that is a far cry from reality. Scientific discovery is fraught with false starts and blind alleys. As a result, labs accumulate vast amounts of valuable knowledge on what not to do, and what does not work. Trouble is, this knowledge is not shared using the usual method of scientific communication: the peer-reviewed article. It remains within the lab, or at the most shared informally among close colleagues. As it stands, the scientific culture discourages sharing negative results. Byte Size Biology reports on a forthcoming journal whose aim is to change this: the Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results. Hopefully, scientists will be able to better share and learn more from each other's experience and mistakes."

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So... (4, Funny)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019158)

If the LHC generates an Earth-eating black hole, will it be published here?

Re:So... (5, Funny)

Asadullah Ahmad (1608869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019208)

I don't think so. This Journal will not publish any results that were expected

Re:So... (0)

You'reJustSlashFlock (1708024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019316)

If the LHC generates a wet, cock-eating black hole, will it pornographic?

A great idea (4, Interesting)

al0ha (1262684) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019164)

but the obstacles are immense. Egos are massive and competition is fierce, so asking researchers to admit a mistake or give the competition a short cut is a tall order.

Re:A great idea (5, Interesting)

Cassius Corodes (1084513) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019248)

I've published a paper with negative results before - there is no great pressure against it - and sometimes failing to re-create claimed results is big news. Perhaps the reason why people think negative results are not published as often is because you don't write "why my study was a big fat failure" - you report on the results you did get - why they are not conclusive / their limitations and what you think future researchers can do to improve on it. I.e. you turn what is ostensibly a failure into a win for science (not to mention a paper for you). I have read many such papers - so they are hardly uncommon.

Re:A great idea (5, Interesting)

electrons_are_brave (1344423) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019290)

I agree - I have on occassion partially replicated previous research and failed to find anything significant. In psychology, at least, this is needed because so many people claim significant results on relatively small correlations (i.e. many psychs are bad at stats).

Repeating the study on a different population and failing to find a significant result can also show that the results don't generalise to that population.

Re:A great idea (5, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019326)

I agree (my first paper was a negative-results paper), but I think there are some kinds of negative results that are relatively hard to get published. Papers along the lines of: "here's an approach you might have thought would work, but it turned out that it didn't, and in retrospect we can see why, which this paper will explain". If you try to submit a paper like that, you often get push-back of, "oh well, yeah it's obvious why that wouldn't work, dunno why you didn't see it earlier". And of course it often is obvious once you've read why it doesn't work.

As you point out, it's quite a bit easier to get negative results published if someone else had already claimed them as positive results. In that case, you're not both proposing and shooting down the idea simultaneously, but shooting down (or failing to confirm) someone else's idea, which has the advantages that: 1) you have evidence that at least one presumably smart person really didn't think it was obviously a bad idea (in fact, they thought it was a good one, and even that it worked); and 2) you're positioned as correcting an error in the literature, rather than as introducing a correction for a hypothetical error nobody has yet made.

It's a bit tricky to fix, because some negative results really are obvious: it does nobody in the field any good to publish "we tried X on Y, and it didn't work", if genuinely nobody who was competent in the field would've thought X would work on Y, and the reason was exactly the reason you discovered.

Incidentally, here's [uottawa.ca] one previous attempt to start such a journal that didn't really get off the ground. Their one published article, which is quite good, is of the form I mention: the authors of a system called Swordfish recounted an idea they had to produce an improvement, Swordfish2, that in the end turned out to do be better than the original Swordfish. It was hard to get published elsewhere, because it wasn't correcting an existing result---nobody had previously proposed that doing what they tried to Swordfish2 was actually a good idea---but it's interesting (to me, at least) because it really does seem like a plausible idea, and I feel I learned something in reading why it didn't work.

Re:A great idea (2, Interesting)

thrawn_aj (1073100) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019630)

3 wonderfully candid and informative posts in a row. It's a pity that that won't stop the idiots crying "OMG conspiracy of silence by egotistical scientists!" :P

Re:A great idea (2, Funny)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019730)

There had been 17 -- but some overlord deleted the others before anyone got a chance to see them. These three escaped censorship because they had already been seen.

Go ahead -- prove me wrong!

Re:A great idea (1)

Rostin (691447) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021902)

Their stories aren't exactly what the article is talking about, imo. It sounds like they all did studies critical of existing positive results. They didn't just write a paper out of the blue that said, "We thought it would be interesting and important to show X. We tried, A, B, and C, but none of those things did what we expected. We still haven't shown X." The exception might be if A, B, and C are somehow exhaustive and so their failure to show X actually disproves X.

I think part of the reason papers like that are rare is, as you suggested, ego. Science is very competitive, and reputation is almost everything. No one wants to give away what they've been working on and how they've been working on it until they can publish something that will make a splash. The risk is too high that some other guy will say, "Oh, yes.. I know just how to show X!" Then he and his students will scoop you and take the lion's share of the credit.

I think that's probably the nature of competition. There's a careful balance between secrecy and openness. You can't compete if you give everything away, but you can't "win" if you don't trumpet your accomplishments. Maybe we can find ways to reward greater openness, but I think that some degree of secrecy is unavoidable.

conferences and informal communication help (2, Interesting)

davros-too (987732) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020312)

Not all knowledge is in formal publications, a heck of a lot of information that falls short of the publication threshold is shared at conferences and through informal communication. While rivalries can sometimes reduce communication there is a lot of information shared between colleagues.

In addition there is often a lot of benefit in working things out for yourself - this provides the in depth understanding to base deeper work on which can be lacking if merely following instructions...

Re:conferences and informal communication help (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020398)

Yeah, I agree with that, though it's nice to have things recorded also. As far as informal communication goes, I'm actually increasingly finding blogs actually to be a good source for that. They're more informal (and timely) than journal or conference papers, but still written, sometimes at length, and usually remain online for a while. Not a permanent record, but more permanent than a chance hallway conversation at a conference.

Re:A great idea (1)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020410)

As you point out, it's quite a bit easier to get negative results published if someone else had already claimed them as positive results.

This one is my favorite:

G. Hathaway, B. Cleveland, Y. Bao, Gravity modification experiment using a rotating superconducting disk and radio frequency fields, Physica C: Superconductivity, Volume 385, Issue 4, 1 April 2003, Pages 488-500, ISSN 0921-4534, DOI: 10.1016/S0921-4534(02)02284-0.

Re:A great idea (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#31022960)

Papers along the lines of: "here's an approach you might have thought would work, but it turned out that it didn't, and in retrospect we can see why, which this paper will explain".

In experimental papers I ususally try to have a section entitled (really) "Things that did not work so well" in which I mention approaches that seemed like good ideas that didn't work out. If I were an editor of an experimental journal I would make this part of the standard format, as any experiment that doesn't lead to the discovery of failed approaches is clearly not difficult enough to be worth doing.

This approach does mean at the end of the day I have to have some positive result, though, which may be couched in terms of "New limits on phenomenon XYZ (that we found no evidence of)".

There's still bias, though. In the search for "physics beyond the standard model" null results are the norm, but the odd (and inevitably mistaken) positive result gets vastly more attention. When I was working in the field and my colleagues in more prolific areas would get a positive result I'd tell them, "Don't worry--that's just as good as a null result", as when I got null results they'd tell me they were just as good as positive results. The fact that they were surprised to be told that suggests the truth: positive results are generally considered better.

Re:A great idea (1)

TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019972)

In biology this is unfortunately not generally the case. Since i came from physics this took just a little getting use too.

Re:A great idea (2, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020328)

you report on the results you did get - why they are not conclusive / their limitations and what you think future researchers can do to improve on it.

And why you should get funding to do a follow-up study.

Re:A great idea (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020526)

I went to a University whose perhaps biggest contribution to science and mankind was a failure. Case Western Reserve University was where the Michelson-Morley interferometer experiments took place - the failure to find the aether that launched Special Relativity. Einstein once came there, "to see where it all started."

Re:A great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31020964)

So what you are trying to say is that you published a story about how your experiment was a big fat failure.

Re:A great idea (3, Interesting)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019264)

Given failed results wouldn't need as much verification, it may be possible for researchers to submit under pseudonyms to avoid embarrassment, and I should think not all researchers are so full of themselves to fear helping others. I agree we won't see the best stories reach this journal, but if nothing else it will be a good way for the honest, cooperative researchers to know they aren't alone.

Re:A great idea (2, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019496)

Egos are massive and competition is fierce, so asking researchers to admit a mistake or give the competition a short cut is a tall order.

The funny thing is, discoveries are not "I told you!". They're "That's interesting...".

Re:A great idea (1)

DangerFace (1315417) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019908)

The problem is the implication that a lack of discovery is "That's not interesting...". There is certainly very strong evidence that publication bias [wikipedia.org] exists and is a tremendous problem in the academic world. While plenty of negative papers do get published the vast majority of published papers have some positive results. As has been discussed already when you get negative results and you want them published you write them out as if they were positive - there is a reason for this, and it's just how people work.

Obligatory car analogy: if someone says "Look! A Ferrari 612!" you look, and you remember (I'm assuming we care about Italian supercars). If someone says "Look! We can't see a single Fiat 500!" (insert local version of very common car here if necessary) then you might go "Hmm. That's a little odd." but you'd need a bit more than that to make it memorable or even interesting.

Re:A great idea (4, Interesting)

irp (260932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019558)

In my experience it has nothing to do with egos or competition.

But it is damn hard to publish something that doesn't work!

I was recently involved i developing a microfluidic system for diagnostics. Every milestone and sub-problem was solved. But when the final injection molded devices were tested, they failed due to an sort of interesting non-obvious combination of factors. Two issues with publishing this; the problems were very specific to our system and the conclusion could be written in 5 lines of text.

It would have been like a movie with huge setup, but within the first 3 minutes the hero stumble, break his neck, and dies. End credits. It was a EU founded research project, no more money no more time. You can't get founding to continue a failed project. End of story.

But my point is, in all my experience as scientist. I've never seen one of my colleagues say "we should hide this", but I've often heard "I would like to tell about this, but I don't know of a paper that would accept it".

Also when something fails we need to carry on, but now we're behind schedule...

Re:A great idea (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021058)

Some of the most useful publications I've read were people admitting stuff doesn't work. In computer science, you never see these in peer reviewed journals, but you often see them on researchers' blogs. When you read a paper that says 'we tried this and it works' it often comes with the small print 'in these very narrow conditions that aren't applicable to any real-world cases'. When you see an idea that someone tried and didn't work, quite often you can see a way of changing it slightly so that it will solve your problem, even when it doesn't solve their original one.

But my point is, in all my experience as scientist. I've never seen one of my colleagues say "we should hide this", but I've often heard "I would like to tell about this, but I don't know of a paper that would accept it".

Absolutely. I proposed the idea of an online journal of failed ideas a few years ago while I was doing my PhD. The problem is that, even if we'd accept the paper, you don't get much recognition for trying stuff that doesn't work. Reputations are built on success, not effort, and so it's not worth much time writing something up in a publication-ready form for such a journal. You'd save other people the time and effort of failing in the same way as you, but that doesn't actually benefit you - if anything it's better if your competition is trying approaches you already know won't work because it makes it less likely that they will try the approach that you are working on that does work and publish the success before you.

Re:A great idea (1)

Mr. Tobes (1617419) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021128)

But my point is, in all my experience as scientist. I've never seen one of my colleagues say "we should hide this", but I've often heard "I would like to tell about this, but I don't know of a paper that would accept it".

Also when something fails we need to carry on, but now we're behind schedule...

Couldn't agree more with you. I've been repeatedly told "You usually only publish positive results". If anyone is interested in an insightful discussion of many of these issues, they might like to track down a book called "Communicating Science" by Nicholas Russell. The first section gives a good critique of the history of science publishing. One of the major issues is simply the historical legacy of a lack of pages in printed journals - who wants to waste space reporting what didn't work? With the rise of the web and open-access publishing there is the slight possibility that this artificial cap on the amount of research that can be published will be finally lifted.

Re:A great idea (1)

bkr1_2k (237627) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021580)

But my point is, in all my experience as scientist. I've never seen one of my colleagues say "we should hide this", but I've often heard "I would like to tell about this, but I don't know of a paper that would accept it".

Isn't that the point of this journal? To be a place for exactly that type of publication?

Re:A great idea (1)

malp (108885) | more than 4 years ago | (#31022024)

It would have been like a movie with huge setup, but within the first 3 minutes the hero stumble, break his neck, and dies.

Lawrence of Arabia?

Re:A great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31023180)

It would have been like a movie with huge setup, but within the first 3 minutes the hero stumble, break his neck, and dies.

Lawrence of Arabia?

No, in that movie [wikipedia.org] there was a motorcycle involved. That makes it EPIC and EXCITING!

Re:A great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31022996)

Out of interest, can you show us the 5 lines of text? (I'm interested in microfluidics and unexpected failure modes are always good to know about...)

Re:A great idea (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020056)

Egos are massive and competition is fierce, so asking researchers to admit a mistake or give the competition a short cut is a tall order.

This must depend on the field if it's true anywhere. In biology, you'd have to be the world's biggest ass to act like you've never had an unexpected result. From my limited experience, if you suggest that -most- of your results are completely what you were expecting, I'd suspect you were lying. It seems like on average, every other research presentation I see, by heads of labs included, the presenter admits some of the most interesting data was not what they expected.

The discovery of penicillin was a monumentally important "mistake." Which field are you in that "researchers" think they're better than Alexander Flemming?

Re:A great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31021540)

been tried before, try googling "journal of negative results"

This could be good (3, Insightful)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019170)

No longer having to remake the broken wheel each time. Or it could lead to a bad side effect having a positive outcome like Viagra and Zyban. Both of these were not what was planned but had amazing results. Hell, penicillin saves millions and if I remember right, was a total mistake at the beginning.

Re:This could be good (5, Informative)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019240)

Penicillin? Not a mistake so much as general messiness. The guy stacked up some bacterial cultures and went on vacation. One of them grew mold. He noticed that the bacteria near the mold were dead.

Re:This could be good (1)

VShael (62735) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020246)

Penicillin? Not a mistake so much as general messiness.

OBLIG: If that's the case, then I've probably got the cure for cancer in my room somewhere.

Re:This could be good (1)

robot256 (1635039) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021186)

Do you have a nice culture of cancer cells so you can notice when they die? ;)

Re:This could be good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31023760)

Thats what she said!!11!!!

Re:This could be good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31021588)

>>> Penicillin? Not a mistake so much as general messiness.

> OBLIG: If that's the case, then I've probably got the cure for cancer in my room somewhere.

Possible -- but will you find it? No, will you see it, when you look directly at it?

If so, you'd be as good as Fleming. If not, you'd be just another moron who'd threw everything out because of the mold -- which is indeed a practical decision.

The genius thing was that Fleming was not practical. How many lives his observation has been saving?

This reminds of the old "blowing the hands" oriental fable... (japanese, IIRC)

This IS a great idea, and the cause of our failing (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31019218)

If we ONLY publish and peer review our successes, our failures and errata is discarded.

In this data could be a LOT of really amazing potential, given peer review and continuance.

No wonder we don't have a theory of everything yet, we're not looking at nearly all the data.

Re:This IS a great idea, and the cause of our fail (1)

plover (150551) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019432)

If we ONLY publish and peer review our successes, our failures and errata is discarded.

In this data could be a LOT of really amazing potential, given peer review and continuance.

No wonder we don't have a theory of everything yet, we're not looking at nearly all the data.

Hmm. With the additions of Facebook and Twitter, the web is now essentially a compendium of 99% failures and errata. And according to your hypothesis, we should still find some amazing potential in it. I think you're on to something.

Re:This IS a great idea, and the cause of our fail (3, Insightful)

Ruke (857276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019806)

You may joke, but facebook is a data-mining goldmine. Never before have advertisers had such free access to the personal lives of the very people they hope to sell their products to.

Fantastic idea (4, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019230)

Sometimes talking to people with very pro-sciene views, you get the idea that "science" is either an accumulated set of known facts or a perfect method which, because of peer review, is infallible at learning absolute truth.

In reality, it's just a set of processes that we've developed and which has been generally more successful at producing helpful results than other methods. No reason to think that the way we go about it couldn't be improved. I can't imagine that failing to share the results failed experiments doesn't sometimes result in the loss of important information.

Coincidentally I just saw this talk [ted.com] which raises the question whether helpful data can be gathered even if it's not gathered through conventional rigorous scientific methods. It seems like an interesting idea-- they're essentially gathering lots of data from various sources and using statistical analysis developed by economists to try to draw conclusions. My biggest concern would be purposeful manipulation by someone with an agenda.

But anyway, all of this is to say that this has gotten me thinking about how the scientific process may still be open to some innovation.

Re:Fantastic idea (1)

Asadullah Ahmad (1608869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019274)

How about this for an idea:

There should be a compilation of "Scientific history" of a sort (which is maintained by Scientific community), where only those discoveries are saved which disprove a previous scientific fact, while proving a so called crazy theory. I just can't get around the stubbornness of most scientists when it comes to theories, ideas and beliefs which are not in-line with current mainstream Science.

Re:Fantastic idea (1)

Ed Peepers (1051144) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019298)

Gleaning information from very large data sets is very possible, even if gathered in ways that are not strictly rigorous. However, we have to be extremely cautious when we interpret the findings. One of the first things you learn in Stats or Research Methods 101 is that everything becomes significant in a large enough data set. If you have billions of data points and pick any two variables, you should find a statistically significant relationship. It won't mean anything, but someone with an agenda OR someone who doesn't know what they are doing can report it and make it sound real. With great power comes great responsibility! ;)

Re:Fantastic idea (2, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019570)

This is because statistical error -- the error you make because of the limits of your sample size -- goes down as 1/sqrt(N), but systematic error -- the error you make because of imperfect knowledge of your model, biases you can't estimate and control for, and so on -- does not.

A large and difficult part of the field of computational physics I do, at least, is accurately estimating systematic errors. Statistical errors are easy, you just do the probability shit. But honestly estimating systematic errors is hard.

If you have a large sample size, of course, you should be trying to bring that huge sample to bear to reduce systematic error, which can usually be done. An example of trying to correct for systematic error is the corrections made to polling data to account for cell-phone-only voters. It can be done, and as long as it is done honestly, you will get a reliable estimate of significance levels at the end.

Re:Fantastic idea (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019878)

In the social sciences and medicine, I think it's an even deeper problem than models. In complex interconnected systems like "human psychology" or "human societies" or "the cardiovascular system", there are very few variables that turn out to be either: 1) absolutely unrelated to each other; or 2) exactly identical. Everything is slightly related, and slightly different, so given large enough datasets, you can always show statistical significance, because it really is a real effect. That's one reason there's been a shift towards a view that some measure of "scientific significance" should be measured: proving a statistically significant but almost-zero effect should not be reported as "significant effect found!!".

Re:Fantastic idea (2, Interesting)

complete loony (663508) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019454)

using statistical analysis developed by economists

Funny, given recent events I would be more worried about the economists models.

Re:Fantastic idea (2, Funny)

swanriversean (928620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019498)

"using statistical analysis developed by economists to try to draw conclusions"

this sounds promising
/deadpan

Re:Fantastic idea (2, Informative)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019554)

Stripped to its bare, ideological minimum, science is nothing more than observation. You can extrapolate the implications of those observations, but in the end everything we know in science can be traced down to an observation. That is why intelligent design fails at being a science: while it technically might be true, it is not an observation, it is a guess. FSM is not an observation it is a (silly) guess.

All the trappings of science, the double-blind experiments, the peer review, etc. are merely ways to improve the accuracy of our observations. It is really beautiful, actually, to realize that for any fact in science you can say, "how do we know this?" and get back to the original observations that show it to be true. This is not something you can do with religion, or philosophy, or literary criticism.

Re:Fantastic idea (2, Informative)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020034)

"Stripped to its bare, ideological minimum, science is nothing more than observation."

You went too far, you stripped off the meat. Science uses observation to find models that accurately predict new observations. The guts of the philosophy is that the utility of reliable predictive models is self evident.

Re:Fantastic idea (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021176)

Stripped to its bare, ideological minimum, science is nothing more than observation. You can extrapolate the implications of those observations, but in the end everything we know in science can be traced down to an observation. That is why intelligent design fails at being a science: while it technically might be true, it is not an observation, it is a guess. FSM is not an observation it is a (silly) guess.

All the trappings of science, the double-blind experiments, the peer review, etc. are merely ways to improve the accuracy of our observations. It is really beautiful, actually, to realize that for any fact in science you can say, "how do we know this?" and get back to the original observations that show it to be true. This is not something you can do with religion, or philosophy, or literary criticism.

Without philosophy, observation is only historical cataloging; mere correlation. Recognition of Causation requires something outside of observation: "silly" guesses. Even after doing hundreds of observations, we'll never know if any of the silly guesses are true, but we'll know which ones turn out false. But, pure philosophy has one on science: certain things can be proved true with mere thought experiment.
Oblig. XKCD: http://xkcd.com/435/ [xkcd.com] But he forgot the logician on the far right telling the mathematician to stuff it.

Re:Fantastic idea (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021052)

>>But anyway, all of this is to say that this has gotten me thinking about how the scientific process may still be open to some innovation.

The sad fact is, there's a lot of work being done under the name of science that isn't really science, or perhaps, science-lite. Do you think "Climate Scientists" have the ability to run scientific experiments? (Let's start with 1,000 earths, add 100ppm of CO2 to half of them, and measure the difference in average temperature across 100 years.) No, of course not. But everyone calls it science anyway, because they publish papers, do a lot of modeling and data analysis and otherwise appear to be doing the same sort of things that real scientists do.

Of course, when you start getting picky about it, there's very few disciplines outside of physics that actually have the same ability to cleanly hold experimental variables in isolation from each other. People conducting "scientific" studies on education will take a group of 60 teachers, train half of them in some cool new teaching technique, and then study the differences in class test results between the control and experimental groups. But teachers and students are complex things, and so even if you show positive test gains, you can't be certain it was your nifty new teaching method.

In medicine, likewise, people will prove things conclusively (p 0.01!!) only to have another study show the exact opposite. Sometimes they'll go back and forth on a subject for years (consider the cell phone/cancer question, or if echinechea is good for you). And nobody really notices that by the statistics they throw around, it should be relatively impossible to get 10 different high confidence level studies all disagreeing on a subject (as long as we can assume there weren't 1000 studies that were being tossed in the trash to cherry pick the best ones). But people still toss around these high confidence factors as if they're meaningful.

It's actually a very serious problem in science right now. Either the above fields aren't science (or "scientific"), or the mathematical foundations of experimentation are all wrong. However, since we've doing quite well, thank you very much, people don't care very much, even if it floods us with anti-scientific health warnings on our soda cans and places of work, and results in a huge industry for people selling nonsensical "radiation barriers" for cell phones.

Re:Fantastic idea (1)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 4 years ago | (#31023022)

I think you're a little too picky about your definition of science.

You don't need to do a double blind experiment for your observations to become science. Geology, astronomy, and evolutionary biology are definitely science even if we can't try out two different methods of creating granite, initiating the big bang, or applying selective pressures to dinosaurs. Likewise with climate science. You're dealt a problem with a long history and a series of facts. Now try to figure out what will happen if variable x changes. Just because changes are harder to observe than dropping apples doesn't mean there isn't science to be had.

In medicine, the caveat is always "assuming our study represents a random sample of the population." Which is almost never true. Finding different results in different populations with high levels of confidence is easy, figuring out how those two populations differ is hard. In this way medicine suffers from the same problems as economics and political science - but because they're steeped in observation and statistics they are science. It's just that science sometimes isn't as unambiguous as we might like - and the only reason we ever started thinking that science was unambiguous was because our entire scientific education consists of a series of neatly solved problems and contrived experiments. Now that I know how, I can make brass really easily - but once upon a time a metallurgist couldn't figure out why he'd add the same amount of the same rocks to copper every time and sometimes he'd get nice hard brass and other times he'd get crappy contaminated copper (the reason is the concentration of zinc in ore is variable).

Even embarrassing ones? (1)

Asadullah Ahmad (1608869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019234)

I hope they get some courage and post even the embarrassing results and experiments. Will remove the illusion that "Scientists" and "stupidity" can't appear in one sentence.

Re:Even embarrassing ones? (1)

crispytwo (1144275) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019318)

I would be willing to bet some witnesses or by-standards will have some stories... Sometimes those results are great memories!

Re:Even embarrassing ones? (1)

Asadullah Ahmad (1608869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019584)

I doubt they will have the authority to get those stories published though. But they might get encouraged to post and discuss those somewhere else on Internet....

Problem is (5, Insightful)

JanneM (7445) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019276)

The problem with any change or reform of the publishing system is that publications are so important for the individual scientist. A paper isn't just a neat way to disseminate results. They are your work evaluation and your CV; they are keeping the score as it were. Where you publish and how often you publish directly determines where - or if - you work another year or two down the road.

And even a short paper takes a lot of time and effort to write. For an informal "don't do that; we tried and it didn't work"-email to a colleague you could just jot down three or four paragraphs after lunch. Make a paper out of it and you have weeks or more of work ahead of you - looking up other previous published reports on the same kind of experiment; doing your best to figure out and explain the exact causes; square your (lack of) results with the apparent success of other groups that did something similar; make neat, clear graphs and illustrations as needed; get formal permission from your lab and your funding agency (and your co-authors labs and funding sources) to actually publish the thing. Then revise and edit the paper multiple times after comments from your co-athours and reviewers.

So, getting good publications is vital for your ability to make rent and buy food for your family. Writing publications take a lot of time and effort - time that is pretty limited. So, even though the will to spread the word on a negative result may be there, chances is, writing it up will be relegated to the "when I've got a bit of spare time"-pile, where it will likely sit until well after retirement.

Technique X fails on problem Y. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31019280)

an article for the first issue? covers all questions

So are we talking:

Technique X fails on problem Y.

Sue all music downloads fails to stop piracy?

Hypothesis X can't be proven using method Y.

All music downloaders can't be proven to be pirates

Protocol X peforms poorly for task Y.

Suing all music downloaders performs poorly for stopping music piracy

Method X has unexpected fundamental limitations.

Forcing people to buy music only on CD / Tape / Vinyl doesn't appeal to all customers

While investigating X, you discovered Y

While trawling torrent log files for music pirates we also found some great porn

Model X can't capture the behavior of phenomenon Y.

Current Music Business Model can't capture the behaviour of generation Y

Failure X is explained by Y.

Failing to increase revenue is explained by $0.99 tracks on Apple (damn iPod users) an music pirates too (arrrgh!)

Assumption X doesn't hold in domain Y.

Assuming independant music stores will be profitable doesn't hold in the .com domain

Event X shouldn't happen, but it does.

People shouldn't want to listen to music for free (damn radio stations, ipods, internet)

Awesome! It's about time! (3, Insightful)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019312)

This is a fantastic idea! It takes a great deal of strength to do this; one has to learn how to have fun and ignore the pangs of the ego.

James Burke's Connections [wikipedia.org] was based on similar philosophy. Non-linear thinking is a very powerful method of moving through time. Many geeks live in the clutches of an obsessive desire to control everything so that they don't get hurt by being wrong. If they could just relax and roll with the ups and downs and not be so hard on themselves, not care if they are laughed at, then they would find their power and perhaps start living lives of consequence.

One university professor described an enormously powerful way of doing research; When you're up against a wall, seeking fruitlessly to find a specific title to continue your line of thinking, instead just pull out some random book nearby. Doesn't even have to be from the same shelf or Dewey code. It will have the answer. -But only if you're tuned to your inner Jedi.

Those who deny their inner Jedi are forever lost. But the upside, I guess, is that nobody will laugh at them.

-FL

Re:Awesome! It's about time! (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020128)

Great series. I used to read his column, the one that sticks in my mind connected the radius of the space shuttle booster rockets to the width of a horses arse. I don't think real geeks are affraid of what people think, just that inquiring minds are obsessed with knowing [youtube.com] .

Signal to noise (1)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019344)

Most failed results have no useful knowledge in them. Having a huge amount of them is less useful that it sounds.

Re:Signal to noise (1)

dex22 (239643) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019446)

Just like your post, then. ;)

Re:Signal to noise (1)

Ignatius D'Lusional (1010911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019462)

Sometimes the noise is the result of too many signals at once; if you can't decipher the meaningful data from the meaningless, the transmission will often be ignored completely. Seeing that other people have already done what you have done helps you to determine the overall accuracy of your experiment in terms of relative experiences, and may even spark people to do *only* things that have not yet been tried yet. It's just a matter of collecting and sharing all of the "negative" data that has and will be published.

This is a great idea! (4, Insightful)

Dr_Ish (639005) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019364)

One of the things that many scientists lack, is a good grounding in the Philosophy of Science. The public version of science, largely pushed by science teachers has an origin in the Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists. This is now largely known to be problematic, but is still the prevailing view. Folks should read Feyerabend's <a href="http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=8y-FVtrKeSYC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=%22Feyerabend%22+%22Against+method%22+&ots=vBXF8-Qt5G&sig=glkJVN6Pjfe3wLmKeTwPGE6-fgk#v=onepage&q=&f=false">*Against Method* </a>, or Ravetz's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Scientific-Knowledge-Its-Social-Problems/dp/1560008512">*Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems*</a> for a more realistic view.

As a scientist, I can also tell tales about how the scientific method gets distorted by ideology. When I was in grad school, I was working on a complex set of problems that were a horror -- a week doing eight hours a day pumping numbers into a scientific calculator is not my idea of fun. However, back then, it was a necessary evil. So, I was about to have to do another horror week with the calculator, which I did not want to do, so I was wasting time and did something silly. It turned out to be a great idea. It gave a whole new method to solve the problem type at hand. A number of other people had a hand in the final paper, but I got to be first author. Unfortunately, as only one author amongst many. The paper made claims about the hypotheses that was being tested, I objected very strongly to this -- there was no hypothesis, but we just got lucky. However, there is a paper with my name on in, published in the 20th Century, that contains claims about what we discovered which are false, at least with respect to hypotheses and all that stuff, in order to ensure that we were following someones idea of the scientific method. It irks me even today. Fortunately, a book about the issue now gives a more accurate account. However, there is no doubt that scientific ideology can drive out the truth. Thus, what is proposed here is a good idea. Telling the truth (even if it does not conform to the ideologically driven official method) is something I teach my grad students even today.

Re:This is a great idea! (2, Insightful)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019672)

One of the things that many scientists lack, is a good grounding in the Philosophy of Science. The public version of science, largely pushed by science teachers has an origin in the Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists. This is now largely known to be problematic, but is still the prevailing view.

Thanks so much for pointing this out. It never ceases to amaze me how many scientists seem to believe blindly in some sort of simplified method taught in middle school or the interesting, but ultimately useless, Popperian epistemology.

Is it really that complicated to understand that "falsifiability" is only a useful concept (and a somewhat limited one at that) for describing the process of testing hypotheses that are already formulated, but it gives almost no guidance about how to come up with such hypotheses in the first place? With such a "method," how could scientific progress ever happen?

Such a "method" is not supported by any reasonable empirical study of the history of science. It's sort of ironic that with all the data available about how scientific advances actually seem to work, scientists believe in a paradigm of their own discipline that doesn't describe the evidence.

And then a miricale occurs (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020182)

Yeah, we've all seen the cartoon [magicanimation.com] but the scientfic method does not claim to offer a method for creativity, to do so would be tautological. What the scientific method offers is a useull way to test the fruits of creativity. The bad fruit tends to complain that there are no instructions for creativity [youtube.com] .

Re:This is a great idea! (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020754)

Thanks so much for pointing this out. It never ceases to amaze me how many scientists seem to believe blindly in some sort of simplified method taught in middle school or the interesting, but ultimately useless, Popperian epistemology.

An alternate hypothesis here is that you are wrong in some important way. Given that Popperian epistemology isn't ultimately useless, I'd start with that.

Re:This is a great idea! (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021096)

>>Thanks so much for pointing this out. It never ceases to amaze me how many scientists seem to believe blindly in some sort of simplified method taught in middle school or the interesting, but ultimately useless, Popperian epistemology.

Yeah, I've never understood why people prefer Popper's fetishistic focus on falsifiability to define what is "scientific", especially given what a large percentage of our knowledge is not falsifiable.

Consider:
I observe a comet through my telescope and I see it explode as it gets near the sun. Nobody else was watching it at the time.

Most people would claim this is a "scientific observation". However, by Popper, it's not falsifiable (there's no way of proving that I'm not just lying about it), so it's not a "scientific" statement.

Therefore, I conclude that Popper's definition is full of shit.

Re:This is a great idea! (2, Informative)

AndersOSU (873247) | more than 4 years ago | (#31023602)

Watching something isn't scientific observation.

Saying I saw a comet explode isn't science.

Saying I saw a comet explode as it neared the sun is getting close because now you're hypothesizing that the sun had something to do with it.

Saying, "the comet exploded due to the melting of water ice as it neared the sun, similar comets should explode as they near the sun as water ice appears to be a fundamental structural element" is science because now you're making testable and falsifiable statements about the comets in general. Now scientific community didn't have to see your comet, they just have to see a comet with similar conditions.

All we have to do is wait for a comet that matches your description fly close to the sun and see if the same thing happens again. What's more future observers can do more detailed observation and get a better sense of the comets composition before it explodes - maybe it wasn't water but thermal stresses due to heating of dissimilar materials that broke it up, but because you made a scientific statement, now the scientific community knows at least to watch for comets as they get near the sun, because something interesting might happen. Even if you're wrong, it's still science. This is important, the public ought to realize that science is a process, not The Ultimate Truth.

It gets a touch harder with historical sciences like evolution, "the raptor evolved into the chicken," is a scientific statement because I can test it with DNA for example, but I can't say why evolution chose that particular course, nor can I say if under the same conditions something resembling a raptor will evolve into something resembling a chicken. What I can say is that the two are related and when I make my Jurassic Park lets use chicken DNA instead of african frog DNA to fill in the missing pieces, it's a closer match and if anything is going to work chicken DNA will (also chickens don't spontaneously change sex - although I am concerned with the possibility of raptors with wings.)

The hallmark of science is the development of models that yield useful information, but the only way to know if the model is right is to test it - which is why Popper and everyone else is so obsessed with falsifiability.

Re:This is a great idea! (1)

Shipud (685171) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021562)

"Philosophers, incidentally, say a great deal about what is absolutely necessary for science, and it is always, so far as one can see, rather naive, and probably wrong. For example, some philosopher or other said it is fundamental to the scientific effort that if an experiment is performed in, say, Stockholm, and then the same experiment is done in, say, Quito, the same results must occur. That is quite false. It is not necessary that science do that; it may be a fact of experience, but it is not necessary. For example, if one of the experiments is to look out at the sky and see the aurora borealis in Stockholm, you do not see it in Quito; that is a different phenomenon. 'But,' you say, 'that is something that has to do with the outside; can you close yourself up in a box in Stockholm and pull down the shade and get any difference?' Surely. If we take a pendulum on a universal joint, and pull it out and let go, then the pendulum will swing almost in a plane, but not quite. Slowly the plane keeps changing in Stockholm, but not in Quito. The blinds are down too. The fact that this happened does not bring on the destruction of science. What is the fundamental hypothesis of science, the fundamental philosophy? We stated it in the first chapter: the sole test of the validity of any idea is the experiment." -- (Lecture 2, Basic Physics, from the Feynman Lectures on Physics)

Bravo! (1)

CranberryKing (776846) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019468)

A refreshing perspective in a world of agenda oriented science. Anyone who's ever had a hunch that turned up false knows such disappointment. Less we forget that the spirit of science is about discovery, knowledge and truth first. Being right, dead last.

Great scientists weren't very scientific (5, Insightful)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019476)

Einstein wasted the last half of his life on wishful thinking "God does not play dice". Well turns out we're pretty sure he does. See Bell's theorum which shows that it can't just be hidden variables. And by all accounts for a theoretical physicist he sucked at advanced math.

Isaac Newton was a horrible little man. Ill tempered, neurotic, and did wild experiments that he was lucky didn't blind him. Let's not forget the nastiness with Leibniz.

Galileo had the social skills of a village idiot which led to the suppression of his work and his imprisonment by the authorities that he angered. (They were idiots too but that's beside the point)

They're three of the greatest but I could go on.

We like to pretend our scientists are great men with a couple of eccentricities that are way too smart to socialise or tolerate fools but the fact is their thinking isn't so superior OR logical OR scientific EXCEPT in their areas of expertise. THAT is why they are remembered. Not because they were above being unscientific.

Re:Great scientists weren't very scientific (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31019510)

So much truth I almost want to cry.

Re:Great scientists weren't very scientific (1)

Evelas (1531407) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019566)

God does not play dice with the universe, he plays Go. - W. Taylor

Re:Great scientists weren't very scientific (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31019636)

which shows that it can't just be hidden variables

Einstein may still have been correct.

Bell's Theorem proved that the effects of quantum physics cannot be both deterministic (hidden variables) AND adhere to the Principle of Locality. There are indications that the Principle of Locality is incorrect.

Re:Great scientists weren't very scientific (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020026)

Einstein may still have been correct. Bell's Theorem proved that the effects of quantum physics cannot be both deterministic (hidden variables) AND adhere to the Principle of Locality. There are indications that the Principle of Locality is incorrect.

It doesn't matter if he's right or not. His belief was not based on science. It was based on him being unable to look at other possibilities. Ironic for a man that revolutionised physics.

Re:Great scientists weren't very scientific (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31022142)

It doesn't matter if he's right or not. His belief was not based on science.

Well how on earth is your belief supposed to be "based on science" when there isn't adequate scientific proof?

Re:Great scientists weren't very scientific (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31019690)

And yet everyone knows who those people are, but nobody knows who you are. Why is that?

Re:Great scientists weren't very scientific (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021152)

>>See Bell's theorum which shows that it can't just be hidden variables.

No, it means there's (probably) no NON-LOCAL hidden variables. Given that nobody really understands what happens during wavefunction collapse (or rather, the mechanism behind it), it's hard to say that he's necessarily wrong. Quantum Mechanics are deeply weird, and science has been getting by describing how they work, rather than why.

I'm not sure why you're trying to claim that scientists can't use intuition in science - if that were the case, nothing would ever get done. He put forth the EPR Paradox, and experimentation eventually proved it wrong. That's how science is supposed to go.

On the other side, Hoyle famously rejected the notion of the Big Bang because he believed it would imply God existed, and he fought tooth and nail against it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Hoyle#Rejection_of_the_Big_Bang [wikipedia.org]

>>Isaac Newton was a horrible little man. Ill tempered, neurotic, and did wild experiments that he was lucky didn't blind him. Let's not forget the nastiness with Leibniz.

Scientists can't get into nasty academic arguments? Really.

>>Galileo had the social skills of a village idiot

Scientists have to have social skills, now? What planet do you live on?

Your claim that these guys were not scientific may be valid (Galileo ignored evidence in favor of his theory), but your arguments against them have nothing to do with anything.

Re:Great scientists weren't very scientific (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31022048)

Well I might argue that the people you're talking about weren't even "scientists" in the modern sense. What they practiced might be better described as natural philosophy [wikipedia.org] . It's not as though Einstein was remembered for his lab experiments. Essentially his innovation was that he re-imagined what it meant to "measure" something.

failed experiment (4, Funny)

InlawBiker (1124825) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019494)

Don't date Wendy from the admissions office. Spectacular failure.

What would we put up our butts? (1)

You'reJustSlashFlock (1708024) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019506)

LED flashlights?

Re:failed experiment (3, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020028)

And you are basing this on one datum? Have you learned NOTHING??? Go back and try again and see if you get the same outcome.

Re:failed experiment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31021424)

And you are basing this on one datum? Have you learned NOTHING??? Go back and try again and see if you get the same outcome.

If the outcome was an emotional black hole, it means everything got sucked into it, and so there's nothing left to repeat it with.

Re:failed experiment (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31023536)

Sadly, past failures have forever tainted the sample.

Mod humanity (1)

shadowbearer (554144) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019522)

Redundant.

  Well, duh.

SB

Re:Mod humanity people by country (1)

MistrX (1566617) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019814)

Troll.

Ofcourse.

"what not work". (1)

Tei (520358) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019556)

Maybe on that list of things that "not work" are things that never worked because the experiment was not well designed.

Is my undestanding that the democracy world is better because we don't firmly control what people experiment. So people are free to try things that "don't work".

Old Problem (3, Insightful)

RobinEggs (1453925) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019652)

Trouble is, this knowledge is not shared using the usual method of scientific communication: the peer-reviewed article. It remains within the lab, or at the most shared informally among close colleagues. As it stands, the scientific culture discourages sharing negative results.

This sort of complaint goes back a very long ways, and it's certainly as good a time as any to address it head on.

We have a habit in writing articles published in scientific journals to make the work as finished as possible, to cover all the tracks, to not worry about the blind alleys or to describe how you had the wrong idea first, and so on. So there isn't any place to publish, in a dignified manner, what you actually did in order to get to do the work, although, there has been in these days, some interest in this kind of thing.

- Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize Acceptance Lecture, 1965

Call for co-authors (1)

jbatista (1205630) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019668)

OK, I have an idea for an article. "Experiments on Seduction: Why 'Just Be Yourself' Is a Bad Idea. Personal Recounts and Anedoctes." Abstract: Friends and relatives often dispense wisdom on the subject of seduction of members of the opposite sex by stating "Just be yourself". In this paper we provide evidence for the failure of this conventional wisdom and provide alternate explanations to its failure. Who wants to co-author?

More of the same? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31019750)

Such a journal already exists for biomedicine:

http://www.jnrbm.com/

All the mystery goes to one journal (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 4 years ago | (#31019992)

If it lives up to its title they be to much fun stuff, and to much mystery in this one journal. All the experiments which don't turn out like it was predicting will end up being documented in the JoSaUR. If we're unlucky these strange results will get burried in is ths journal and no one will bother to try to reproduce the unexpected. The serendipitous and unexpected is of course, exactly what moves science forward, so I hope experiments that end up in JoSaUR do get looked at again and hard.

---

History of Science [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed DIstiller [feeddistiller.com]

Re:All the mystery goes to one journal (1)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020270)

I don't know if it is such a good idea to bundle unexpected facts from so many disciplines in one journal... I mean, if you're in computer science, would you like reading that such and such method for manipulating the DNA of a fruit-fly produces an anomaly in its social behavior? I think not...

Fr@ist ps0t (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31020076)

This is nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31020092)

The Journal of Unreproducible Results was created in the 60's (really) and the name has become a very common joke among scientists ever since :-)

Just like post-mortem reports in engineering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31020098)

Engineers had similar reports long ago, and they are the most interesting stuff you can find. An educated investigation of failure is much more important for me (for studying purposes), than pure success. There are many interesting ways to fail. Just look at industrial accidents.

some advice (1)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020228)

never attribute to serendipity what can be explained by science

Is that a so good idea ? (2, Interesting)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020258)

I can't help but remember Sony founder explaining how they were looking for ways of doing efficient small transistors with various materials and that they had learned from Bell labs that silicium gave very poor result so they spent minimum resources on that.

I can't help also wonder if this is a good use of "peer reviewing" which has a kind of shortage, or so I heard.

Semantic games? (1)

hansraj (458504) | more than 4 years ago | (#31020606)

I love how people often point out "you can't prove a negative" or "you can't publish negative results". Turns out that you are very wrong if you think that either is true.

At first sight it appears that the idea behind this journal is to share failed attempts. But look at the kind of examples the website would like you to prove: "Prove that method X does not work for problem Y." This is *not* a failed attempt. You succeeded in proving something. Some great papers dealing with P?=NP problem prove exactly this kind of thing. How about the proof that you can't put real numbers into a list and so they are uncountably many?

The usual problem with a "failed attempt" is that something does not work the way you had hoped for. Not that you discover that something won't work generally. Those latter kind of statements require much more sophistication to prove.

Proving the negation of X is not the same as not being able to prove X, and vice-versa.

Good Idea, Not the First (1)

pz (113803) | more than 4 years ago | (#31021220)

This idea was already executed a while ago by the Journal of Negative Results in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, the [jnr-eeb.org] Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine [jnrbm.com] , the Journal of Negative Results in Speech and Audio Sciences [haikya.us] and probably a few others that Google will help you find, just as it helped me find. But, as I recall, even PLoS [plos.org] had publishing negative results in its charter and specifically PLoS ONE [plosone.org] encouraged them, being all-inclusive.

The problem? Most of them (except for PLoS and PLoS ONE) have a very low impact factor because although negative results are important, they aren't sexy in the least. If they were sexy, they would have been published in more mainstream journals. Because publishing a paper requires significant effort, a scientist is unlikely to spend his most precious resource -- time -- publishing a negative result if he can publish a positive one. Positive results get referenced, negative ones, by-and-large, do not. References in important journals lead to advancement as a scientist through grants, promotion, etc. So, unless the result is going to have significant impact -- like contradicting a previous result, or disproving dogma -- there's little motivation for a scientist to expend the effort to write up and publish a negative result, rather than do more research.
   

When will they publish the article... (1)

rnturn (11092) | more than 4 years ago | (#31022314)

... that explains how the whole Mentos+soda thing was actually a failed attempt at cold fusion?

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