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BioMed Central’s smart push to publish “negative data”

March 13th, 2008 by dwentworth

BioMed Central — a champion among open access publishers — has just announced the launch of BMC Research Notes, a new journal that aims to complete the scientific record by publishing so-called dark data. That includes information about failed experiments, “disappointing” follow-up results and findings that traditional publishers deem scientifically sound but not headline-worthy.

Why would we want to publish these kinds of materials? As the announcement explains:

Small studies and confirmatory studies produce a valuable body of work – most science progresses by small advances rather than headline breakthroughs. Replication of results is essential and these studies are included in meta-analyses and systematic reviews. If the results of a study confirm what is already known or a new method or software tool offers an alternative approach rather than a major advance then we want authors to state this rather than being tempted to make exaggerated claims. Negative results may seem disappointing, but support for the null hypothesis is important and publishing such studies is essential to avoid publication bias.

This is a very smart move, and a brilliant demonstration of why we need to make the leap beyond the traditional publishing model: it isn’t serving the progress of science. We can’t move forward if we continue to use a model that systematically forces scientists to double back, re-explore blind alleys and repeat one another’s work.

Bravo to BioMed for continuing to make the case for publishing that makes sense for science.

(If you’d like to read more about BioMed Central publications, here’s our post on BMC Proceedings, where we first took note of BMC Research Notes.)

2 Responses

  1. Science Commons » Blog Archive » One small step for open access…, on April 13th, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    […] the mandate means for the future of biomedical research, fielding questions about everything from freeing dark data to expanding access to orphan disease research to reclaiming our scientific heritage in the […]

  2. Andrew, on February 2nd, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Agree completely, if you don’t know what doesn’t work, you’ll waste time and resources.