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What to do with Your Negative Results

My advisor received an email from a fairly prominent geneticist regarding some results published by Dobzhansky over fifty years ago. The geneticist had done some back of the envelope calculations and noticed some trends that had been overlooked for a half of a century. We happened to have the animals to replicate the experiments (and I was planning on doing some similar experiments) so my advisor had me perform the crosses. I ended up with a negative result — I did not see the same trends that Dobzhanksy and colleagues observed. I guess you could say my negative result was a positive because I rejected a previous positive result.

I’m planning to publish my results (along with some additional statistical analysis) in a regular journal, but I could always submit it here if I can’t get anyone to publish it. From the Journal of Negative Results’ website:

The primary intention of Journal of Negative Results is to provide an online-medium for the publication of peer-reviewed, sound scientific work in ecology and evolutionary biology that may otherwise remain unknown. In recent years, the trend has been to publish only studies with ‘significant’ results and to ignore studies that seem uneventful. This may lead to a biased, perhaps untrue, representation of what exists in nature. By counter-balancing such selective reporting, JNR aims to expand the capacity for formulating generalizations. The work to be published in JNR will include studies that 1) test novel or established hypotheses/theories that yield negative or dissenting results, or 2) replicate work published previously (in either cognate or different systems). Short notes on studies in which the data are biologically interesting but lack statistical power are also welcome. JNR also intends to present the results of studies in a format suitable for formal meta-analysis. Research quality is of highest importance for JNR. Manuscripts will be assessed for publication on this basis – positive results or support for current scientific dogma are not essential.

(Via Nature.)

Comments

  1. #1 Tariq Aslam
    May 16, 2006

    your site is great
    I am particularly interested in your comments on publication, negative findings, etc.
    My field is eye surgery and research.
    I feel the field is completely beset with bias and loss of scientific integrity such as that caused by editor bias, commercial bias, reviewers biased against new ideas not necessarily the same as the reviewers. Also authors tending to try ans squeeze positive results or particular results from data in order to make them more likely to be published.

    i think this all needs to radically change and believe the internet provides the answer. We should start again as if journals did not exist, just science and researchers and the internet.

    sorry if i droned on . wont go on any more but please let me know if you are interested at all with ideas or helping etc

    Dr Tariq Aslam
    Edinburgh

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