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No article fee for negative results until end of August

Posted by Eva Amsen, 15 May 2013

[NB: this campaign has been extended until the end of September. Read more.]

Negative, and proud of it!

It can be very difficult to get papers presenting negative or null results published.  Many important results from scientific experiments are never published in the traditional peer reviewed literature, but negative and null results present a particular challenge. Despite the fact that many of these experiments are carefully designed and well executed, negative-result papers are regularly turned down by journals simply because they don’t show an exciting new finding.

This is not only a disappointment for the researchers who conducted the work, it’s also damaging to the overall scientific record. This so-called “publication bias” toward positive results makes it appear as though the experiments with negative or null results never happened.

Sometimes the unpublished experiments are obvious next steps in elucidating a particular biological mechanism, making it likely that other researchers will try the same thing, not realizing that someone else already did the work. This is a waste of time and money.

On other occasions, the positive results that are published are the exception: they could have been specific to a narrow set of conditions, but if all the experiments that didn’t work are not shown, these exceptional cases now look like the only possible result. This is especially damaging when it comes to drug development and medical research, where treatments may be developed based on an incomplete understanding of research results.

Write up your negative findings!

At F1000Research, we pride ourselves on transparency and openness, and we would like to encourage the publication of all sound science – not just those studies that result in positive findings. That is why from now until the end of August September, we are waiving the article processing fee for articles that report negative or null findings. (See press release.)

If you have negative results in your lab notebooks, this is the time to write them up! Like all journals, we of course publish traditional full-length research papers but, in addition, we accept short single-observation articles, data articles (i.e. a dataset plus protocol), and negative- and null-result submissions.

For negative and null results, it is especially important to ensure that the outcome is a genuine finding generated by a well executed experiment, and not simply the result of poorly conducted work.  We have been talking to our Editorial Board about how to try to avoid the publication of the latter type of result and will be addressing this topic and asking for your input in a further post in the next few days.

Research doesn’t have to produce positive results to be great science.  We have already published several interesting negative- and null-result articles and, in the next few weeks, we will feature a few of these on our blog, to prove our point.  We will also hear from others who are concerned with reducing publication bias, and discuss funding opportunities to support researchers who want to pursue follow-up work on negative data.

We believe that all valid and well conducted research should be published; positive, negative or null, it should be part of the scientific record.  We believe that this is very important for scientific progress – and we know that many of you agree with us.

We encourage you to join us in helping to improve the scientific record and reduce publication bias.  Write up your negative finding and submit them to F1000Research!

(When submitting, use code NR13 to avoid being charged for your negative results until the end of August.)

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