What is Data?
Data is the first peer-reviewed open access journal dedicated to the publication of negative, null or inconclusive (NNI) results from all scientific fields: natural, formal, applied, social and medical sciences without forgetting the fringe ones.
The great majority of published results are what we often name “positive results”, i.e. data that supports a hypothesis or a complete mathematical demonstration. Since 2006, PLOS ONE, the well-known peer-reviewed open access scientific journal, allowed the emancipation of scientific data from their arguable ‘importance’, considering instead the rigorous execution of presented experiments and data analysis as criteria for publication. Any result is important for the assessment, improvement or completion, of the specific and global knowledge and the stimulation of scientific reflection.
However, this great concept was not applied to its full potential. Indeed, one kind of results remaining underexploited: NNI results. If we focus on scientific knowledge improvement, knowing ‘which paths lead to a dead-end’ or ‘what method is inefficient’, is as important as ‘knowing what are the right ways’ or ‘what does actually work’, if not more. NNI results are an essential and natural part of the reflection process. Apprehending the origin of a scientific knowledge, and the routes that have been followed to build it, is primordial to its understanding. For instance, the understanding of the sequential steps of a mathematical demonstration can be more important than its ultimate result. Thus, the interest of a positive result publication as such is partial. And if the obtained result is not ‘positive’, the underlying scientific approach and theory disappear. Consequently, not publishing NNI results causes for many years an enormous waste of time and money for the scientific research, because the same ideas or methods are considered multiple times. Furthermore, the absence of NNI data in literature introduces a bias in the scientific method, because this makes the detection of false positives difficult. Contradictory studies, that conflict with or cannot reproduce previously published studies, hardly find their place in peer-reviewed journals and this can have serious consequences like misleading a whole field into wrong assumptions for long time.
Data has been envisioned and designed to address these important issues, going further than the previous attempts at publication of negative results. First, we propose an innovative article format dedicated to the NNI results, in five sections, as presented here. Standard article format, which focuses on the implication of positive results, is not appropriate. Indeed, for NNI results, the core question should be about how these results were obtained. Second, we also propose a new publishing process. Since NNI results act as supports of new reflections, the standard peer review process appears not necessary. We propose that authors designate at least two reviewers who will assess the overall coherence of the approach. However, to avoid any abuse (publish nonsenses because it’s NNI results), reviewers will sign a proof of reviewing and their contribution to the reviewing process will be stated on the paper. More details concerning the publication process are provided here.
In conclusion, Data is the first peer-reviewed journal, dedicated to the publication of NNI results from any scientific discipline. We hope that our passion for science meeting yours will shed light on these neglected but so important data and will promote a better understanding of nature.
“Mistakes are the portals of discovery”