No to Negative Data

Why I believe findings that disprove a hypothesis are largely not worth publishing.

Steven Wiley
Apr 1, 2008

A frequent criticism in biology is that we don't publish our negative data. As a result, the literature has become biased towards papers that favor specific hypotheses (Nature, 422:554—5, 2003). Some scientists have become so concerned about this trend that they have created journals dedicated to publishing negative results (e.g., Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine). Personally, I don't think they should bother.

I say this because I believe negative results are not worth publishing. Rest assured that I do not include drug studies that show a lack of effectiveness towards a specific disease or condition. This type of finding is significant in a societal context, not a scientific one, and we all have a vested interest in seeing this type of result published. I am talking about a set of experimental results that fail to support a particular hypothesis. The problem with these types of negative...