Laura Seger
The Rise of Negative Results Journals
After seven hundred unsuccessful attempts to invent the light bulb, Thomas Edison was reportedly asked, "How does it feel to have failed seven hundred times?" to which he replied, "I have not failed seven hundred times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those seven hundred ways will not work." Like Edison, many scientists readily acknowledge that most of their work produces negative results, which are results that fail either to reject the null hypothesis or to reproduce previously published material, and the scientists argue that these results are necessary for the practice of science and should not be viewed as failures. Unfortunately, scientific journals tend to publish only positive results, so there has been no systematic way to share negative results with other researchers beyond casual conversation - until now. Since 1997, there has been a small explosion of online journals dedicated to publishing negative results in several different scientific fields. One would think that scientists would jump at the opportunity to salvage work from their circular files to submit for publication, but this has not been the case. In this paper, I trace the rise (and sometimes fall) of each journal, compare and contrast their missions and founding motivation, and analyze the apparent reluctance of scientists to publish in journals dedicated to negative results.