Publication bias is the tendency to report positive results differently from negative or inconclusive results, resulting in a bias in the overall literature (see Wikipedia article and this tutorial at the Cochrane Collaboration). Afficionados of evidence-based practice and meta-analysers of research worry that such bias makes it hard to accurately interpret the literature (though there is bias and bias). In the clinical field it was hoped that registration of clinical trials would improve the situation, creating more pressure to publish results of all trials. Nature reported in 2009 that
“Fewer than half of published trials are adequately registered, and, on the other hand, fewer than half of registered trials are ever published in peer-reviewed journals”.
In a letter to Nature last year Bob O’Hara pointed out that a number of journals do publish negative results, listing the following as titles devoted to or including negative results:
- Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine
- Journal of Negative Results — Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
- Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis
- Journal of Universal Computer Sciences
- PLoS ONE
Incentives for publishing negative or inconclusive results are lacking though.
Now a new publication, the Journal of Errology aims to help change this. They say
“apart from sharing successful results and data, it is also important for researchers to share the experiences learned via their trials and tribulations. We can say with certainty that nothing till now has not been discovered or invented without its fair share of failures, mistakes, errors and problems.”
So far the journal seems to be empty. Not just empty of articles but also empty of editors and reviewers. Even the FAQ page is empty. Still, it is an interesting idea and an arresting title – Errology. I wonder how long it will be before we see a Professor of Errology?