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PLOS authors publish negative result, failing to replicate their own previous result.

  1. Oct 14, 2014 #1


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  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 14, 2014 #2


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    An excellent example of science working the way it is supposed to (and often doesn't)
  4. Oct 14, 2014 #3
    Historically there have been some very important negative results. The failure of experiments like the Michelson-Morley to measure the luminiferous aether is what lead Einstein, in part, to special relativity. The current failure of the LHC to make any experimental observation that is in conflict with the Standard Model and the failure of Dark Matter detectors to find a single confirmed particle may in the future be important negative results as well.
  5. Oct 14, 2014 #4
    As a matter of interesting historical significance, I think Einstein was quoted as saying that he was unaware of the Michelson-Morley results when he was developing SR. At least according to Ohanian:https://www.amazon.com/Einsteins-Mistakes-Human-Failings-Genius/dp/0393337685

    I think he also asserted that he was unaware of Poincare's relevant work on SR that was going on currently with his. He developed SR largely based on Maxwell's and Lorentz's work. I can see him perhaps being ignorant of Poincare's publications, but not to know about MM that occurred about 20 years earlier? Hard to believe he didn't come across that in his research. What a great feather in your hat reference to have when publishing your model. These are the kind you don't want to miss.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  6. Oct 14, 2014 #5
  7. Oct 14, 2014 #6


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    Negative results are frequently published in physics, other sciences often have a worse ratio - up to the point where repetitions do not get funded at all because "this has been studied already"... or negative results are simply not published at all.
  8. Oct 14, 2014 #7


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    This is a common complaint from professors teaching seminar classes in neuroscience (where we go through 4 journal articles a week).
  9. Oct 14, 2014 #8


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    The issue of the publication of negative results in peer-reviewed journals is a highly contentious one. I am impressed by PLOS ONE accepting this publication, but I am even more impressed that they did so as a full paper, rather than as "correspondence to the editor" or even a mere footnote of retraction (as many other journals tend to do, if they even bother to consider the follow-up paper). Kudos for excellent intellectual honesty all around - to the authors, the reviewers and the editorial board.

    I am not really familiar with what goes on in physical sciences journals, but I am active in publishing and reviewing in the medical literature. Because of the long-recognition of issues with getting negative results to see the light of day in high impact-factor journals (or pretty much any "mainstream" journal, really), techniques like displaying the funnel plot (a visual representation of the likelihood of publication bias) have become de rigueur when publishing meta-analyses and systematic reviews. And, to address the perceived gap in the "mainstream" literature, open access, online-only journals like the Journal of Negative Results in Biological Medicine have sprung up. Their website: http://www.jnrbm.com/
  10. Oct 14, 2014 #9


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    Yep, PLOS One is itself an open acces project of PLOS.
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