Null Results: Why You Should Consider Publishing Your Research “Failures”

By eContent Pro on Jul 1, 2020
Why You Should Consider Publishing Your Research Failures

The ebb and flow of research is constantly shifting. Some Academic endeavors are met with great success, but no one is immune to failure. Often, when you are met with a research blunder, the instinct to ditch your data and start over can seem like the next natural step. But stop right there! As with anything else, learning from your failures is just as valuable as learning from your triumphs, and the same can be said for your peers. Allow eContent Pro to explore the following questions: What does null mean in your research, how are null results received, and how can publishing your null results impact the Academic community?

What Does “Null” Mean?

When nothing significantly different is shown in your study, or if there is no association or relationship between the two measured phenomena, this is what is referred to as a null hypothesis. The correlating null results refer to the lack of expected content, and don’t necessarily mean that there is absolutely no movement in your research, just not enough movement to be notable. Sometimes referred to as negative results or failed experiments, null results are often used not for their actual findings, but to determine what can be done more effectively in further research.

The Publishing Imbalance

Despite null results being a frequent occurrence in research, it can be difficult to find evidence of these results in Academic publications. According to a 2014 study conducted by Annie Franco, Neil Malhotra, and Gabor Simonovits, positive results are 40% more likely to be published than null results, and comparatively, positive results are 60% more likely to be written about in the first place. Some publications don’t even consider null results unless the subject is incredibly relevant, and some funders will reconsider their involvement in a project if the research isn’t yielding the expected results. This pressure to create positive results in order to be published, commonly called “publish or perish,” means that some researchers may put forth positive results they are unsure of in order to make it, negatively impacting potential research even further.

Benefits of Posting Null Results

Only publishing positive results creates unrealistic expectations for the average reader. The lack of balance between positive and negative results means that researchers are only getting one side of an issue, despite potential evidence to the contrary. This can potentially sway their own research and creates a snowball effect of information that isn’t necessarily complete, therefore null results are necessary to strike a balance. Publishing null results also means that early career researchers can avoid duplicating a research topic that has already been explored and proven negative, saving time and money that they could expend on a new topic. These null results can also be used as a jumping off point for new ideas, and all research contains valuable information on outcomes, research tactics, and challenges that anyone can use to help prepare themselves for their own studies.

Researchers seem to be facing an uphill battle, but efforts to raise awareness of the importance of publishing null results are continuing, and the benefits are significant. Are you shopping for journals to submit your manuscript for publication? Get started on your search using our new journal database, and allow our experts to read your manuscript and hand pick the perfect publications with our journal recommendation service!

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