It’s no secret that it can be difficult to find negative results in the scientific literature. For a variety of reasons, positive publication bias is a real phenomenon. In clinical medicine, that can paint a more optimistic picture of a field than is actually the case. And in basic science, it can mean other scientists may repeat experiments that have already failed.
But the new Journal of Errology, yet to be launched, wants to be a home for experiments that didn’t work out. If it’s successful, it might mean a place where researchers could publish results that don’t look great, without feeling the need to make them look any better — a strategy that can lead to retractions.
BioFlukes, the journal’s Bangalore, India-based publishers, have ambitious goals, according to the company’s Mahboob Imtiyaz:
The aims of Journal of Errology are multi-fold. At the top of our list of priorities is to create a repository for researchers to share their experiences with the future researchers. From our interviews and our own experience, we have found out that failing teaches us a lot more than than success. For a fresh researcher the most valuable resource is his colleagues and other lab companions, who warn him or her of the various pitfalls, from their own experiences or from the lessons imparted from their instructors, colleagues, etc. With the help of Journal of Errology, we can make the world as one big lab, where researchers can share experiences on a global level.
In the last decade, there has been a noticeable fall in the number of ground breaking discoveries and innovations, many going as far as to call it “innovation stagnation”. The average age at which researchers make discoveries is on the rise: this can be realized from the rise in the average age of Nobel Prize winners in every field in the past five decades. The reasons for these are many, however, one among these reasons and one which can be avoided using the available technologies, is the ability to share experiences. Humans are the only species in the known Universe, with the ability to learn from each other’s experiences. It makes no sense for an advanced civilizations such as ours to fall prey to the same mistakes that have already been made before again and again. Publications do not publish these results in order to keep reader interest, and neither do researchers care to share them with other researchers apart from a few close peers and their colleagues.
With this in mind and many more benefits, we are taking the first few steps with the hopes of realization of our goals, hoping to be noticed and taken ahead with the combined effort of researchers around the world.
Those are some tall orders, and BioFluke has its work cut out for it. The journal doesn’t have an editor in chief yet, but has been talking to various scientists, Imtiyaz said. So far, Eduardo G. P. Fox, a postdoc at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, who studies entomology, has signed on as section editor for biochemistry, biopharmaceuticals, and cellular biology.
Imtiyaz couldn’t give us an exact launch date, but he said the journal plans to start publishing as soon as their website is complete and they have DOIs.
However, we have already begun accepting submissions and have received a good response, with a few submissions already received.
We pointed out that there are other similar journals, such as the Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine (JNRBM) and the Journal of Interesting Negative Results in Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning. How would the Journal of Errology differentiate itself?
Unlike journals such a JNRBM or “all results” journals, which accept completed research papers, we accept other unpublished hypothesis,errors (inexplicable or frequent), stumbles and other problems that were overcome during the course of a successful research. We aim to create a place for researchers to discuss on these results, vote and recommendations from other researchers. Submissions to our site can be made either before or after publication of the paper in another research journal. Also unlike Jnrbm, we do not charge for submitting articles and the articles can be accessed freely by all researchers.
That led to our next question. If the journal isn’t charging subscribers, nor authors who submit, how would it fund itself?
We have other sources of income such as “Innovators4Hire” – a challenge based candidate screening system, and our lab equipment review blog “Lab Critics,” We are also looking at advertising in the near future.
BioFlukes hasn’t published any other journals, but Imtiyaz said the company is being supported by the Society of United Life Sciences, which publishes the Scholar’s Research Journal. That journal has published one issue, for January-June 2011.
We’ll keep an eye on the Journal of Errology.