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

From: D. F. Siemens, Jr. (
Date: Sat Oct 20 2001 - 13:49:55 EDT

  • Next message: george murphy: "Re: Is a Journal of Negative & Partial Results necessary?"

    Looking on as a philosopher, I see the value of imaginative musings about
    the might be, the techniques that haven't worked or might work (and
    haven't worked for this but give a hint that might be appropriate for
    that), etc., for the knowledgeable, those with the background to evaluate
    the material. But I also consider what a treasure trove such material
    would be for the nitwits with an axe to grind. It's tough enough to deal
    with the quacks and true believers now. What would it be with the input
    of all the half-baked and unchecked musings produced by even the best of
    thinkers and experimenters?

    I understand that there is a sharing of preprints and guesses among the
    small number of workers in some of the specialized areas in physics. I
    don't know to what extent this may be true in other disciplines.
    Unfortunately, this seems to work only for an inner circle, not the
    broad-based need for information that Wayne implies.

    Is there any way for a scholar to get all the information that is
    relevant to the task at hand and its total context? I recall reading many
    years ago that, if a person spent all his working hours simply reading
    the life science journals, at the end of a year he would be some three
    months behind. The number of journals and the information put out has
    increased amazingly since then. There was no comment on how to remember
    all that information. I also recall that a nursing program specified
    that, if the student had taken the required biology course more than two
    years earlier, it had to be repeated--the material had changed that
    radically. I note further the need for bioinformatics, people able to
    design programs that will extract the relevant and present it in an
    understandable form so that it can be used. Looks like information
    overload is here to stay.
    On Sat, 20 Oct 2001 10:38:28 EDT writes:
    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85% of this unpublished 90% is crap, but with search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
    and Partial Results? Is there some form of editorial control and
    quality assurance that would work in a high-data, low information

    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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