Is a Journal of Negative & Partial Results necessary?

From: Tim Ikeda (
Date: Tue Oct 16 2001 - 23:14:45 EDT

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    I can't remember all the many times when the unpublished results from other
    groups helped or could've helped my work. I know that scientific networking
    is essential to distribute this information but sometimes I wonder if other
    mechanisms could be created to assist in the dissemination. So much data is
    lost when scientists retire, die, or move on to other fields.

    For example, in the '50s, '60s and early '70s many researchers doing
    classic studies of bacterial metabolism were at their peaks. That
    field was later partially eclipsed by shifting interests toward areas
    including molecular and developmental biology. Now, many of the
    original researchers are disappearing, along with lifetimes of unpublished
    but essential information. This at a time when technological advances
    permit a better understanding of metabolism than ever before and
    when the field of metabolic "engineering" is beginning to take off.

    Is there a better way of retaining the "oral history" of science,
    that 90% of observations which are never published, than in the
    second-hand recollections of dwindling numbers of former grad
    students and post-docs?

    Most likely, >85% of this unpublished 90% is crap, but with search
    engines, is there now enough storage and filtering capability to locate
    gems and justify the effort? And how? Online notebooks? An E-journal of
    and Partial Results? Is there some form of editorial control and publication
    quality assurance that would work in a high-data, low information environment?

    - Tim Ikeda

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