Re: Is a Journal of Negative & Partial Results necessary?

Date: Sat Oct 20 2001 - 10:38:28 EDT

  • Next message: D. F. Siemens, Jr.: "Re: Is a Journal of Negative & Partial Results necessary?"

    Tim Ikeda wrote:

    > 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85% of this unpublished 90% is crap, but with search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
    > Negative
    > and Partial Results? Is there some form of editorial control and publication
    > quality assurance that would work in a high-data, low information
    > environment?

    I second your observation. For years I thought splicing
    occurs for all intron dropped into splicing extract. From
    the way the biology literature on the spliceosome is written,
    you sure would think so. Long behold, it turns out that
    long sequences don't always work. No surprise per se, but
    it would be nice to know that rather than get a false
    "just so" impression that biology and biochemistry textbooks
    often seem to claim.

    As to Howard's remark on peer review, reviewers are
    able to evaluate good experimental technique. So for
    example, It would be useful to know that procedures A,
    B, C, etc., fail to crystallize a protein. Crystallization
    procedures are known and can be assessed by a reviewer.
    The information is also quite useful because it would
    tell me not to use those techniques and may even be
    indicative of some important function or family of
    proteins I might be investigating.

    I see three advantages to reports of null, incomplete,
    or unsuccessful results.

    (1) Knowing that a certain set of well known procedures
    fail to materialize results would saves others from making
    the same mistakes and would encourage them to focus their
    attention on a different strategy. Hence, even if a solution
    is eventually discovered, it would spare a lot of waste making
    square wheels when someone already found out they don't roll.

    (2) It also helps identify problems of technical interest
    which can attract the attention of ambitious thinkers
    who are willing to be challenged by difficult and possibly
    unsolvable problems. Likewise since these problems may be
    unsolvable, there are no clear "answers" and a different
    kind of ingenuity is required.

    (3) Finally, no result is in fact sometimes an important
    result. Michelson and Morley is perhaps a good historic
    by Grace we proceed,

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