I have previously addressed the unfortunate bias in the scientific literature that arises from the tendency not to publish results that are negative, or that simply show that a certain direction of scientific exploration is not very promising.
The other day, I learned about the relatively new journal BMC Research Notes. This is an open access online journal with the mission to publish:
scientifically sound research across all fields of biology and medicine, enabling authors to publish updates to previous research, software tools and databases, data sets, small-scale clinical studies, and reports of confirmatory or ‘negative’ results. Additionally the journal welcomes descriptions of incremental improvements to methods as well as short correspondence items and hypotheses.
Here is, at last, a scientific journal that will not shy away from making accessible data that will only be valuable to a small set of researchers. There have been several times when I have run across scientific questions that I know must have been addressed many times before, but the results of which haven’t been published. I also know that if my new question were known to the other scientists, they would probably have published. From this I have learned that it is difficult to predict which findings might become important in the future, and that the best course is to simply make data available.
The key question is not whether BMC Research Notes will come to be regarded as a ”dump journal”. It will, by arrogant investigators who would rather drop a project than publish it in a less prestigious publication. But their attitude is doing the scientific endeavour a great disservice by contributing to the already heavy bias of what gets published.
When you see another researcher’s publication list and it includes only top journals with the occasional Nature or Science paper like icing on the cake, the relevant response is not just “excellent!”, but also “what is this person hiding?”. Where are the great heaps of data that this scientist has generated, but that never made it into one of the top articles? Have they been forever discarded? Is that in anybody’s interest?