Journals for insignificant results

Tom Daula writes:

I know you’re not a fan of hypothesis testing, but the journals in this blog post are an interesting approach to the file drawer problem. I’ve never heard of them or their like. An alternative take (given academia standard practice) is “Journal for XYZ Discipline papers that p-hacking and forking paths could not save.”

Psychology: Journal of Articles in Support of the Null Hypothesis

Biomedicine: Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology: Journal of Negative Results

In psychology, this sort of journal isn’t really needed because we already have PPNAS, where they publish articles in support of the null hypothesis all the time, they just don’t realize it!

OK, ok, all jokes aside, the above post recommends:

Is it time for Economics to catch up? . . . a number of prominent Economists have endorsed this idea (even if they are not ready to pioneer the initiative). So, imagine… a call for papers along the following lines:

Series of Unsurprising Results in Economics (SURE)

Is the topic of your paper interesting, your analysis carefully done, but your results are not “sexy”? If so, please consider submitting your paper to SURE. An e-journal of high-quality research with “unsurprising” findings.
How does it work:
— We accept papers from all fields of Economics…
— Which have been rejected at a journal indexed in EconLit…
— With the ONLY important reason being that their results are statistically insignificant or otherwise “unsurprising”.

I can’t imagine this working. Why not just publish everything on SSRN or whatever, and then this SURE can just link to the articles in question (along with the offending referee reports)?

Also, I’m reminded of the magazine McSweeney’s, which someone once told me had been founded based on the principle of publishing stories that had been rejected elsewhere.

9 thoughts on “Journals for insignificant results

  1. “Why not just publish everything on SSRN or whatever” and link to the “offending referee reports”
    isn’t this assuming that the paper is otherwise fine, except for being uninteresting. Where as most papers, interesting or not, have problems that need to be addressed before publication. Important and interesting questions with uninteresting results still need to be refereed to make sure they are correct.

  2. Wow, what is a paper like this doing in “journal of negative results”:

    It is basically about Alzheimer’s research being sloppy, ie claiming that antibody cross-reactivity has been causing them to misinterpret their results:

    The correspondence between Aβ immunoreactivity from any specific antibody, neuropathology and proposed APP cleavages is not clear and may in part explain the lack of correspondence between clinical and neuropathological diagnoses of dementia. These cross reactivities question current therapeutic approaches to reduce Aβ via directed immunotherapies, call for a detailed re-analysis of biomarker results and call into question approaches aimed solely at reducing β-cleavage.

    This wouldn’t surprise me, dealing with antibodies against natively unfolded proteins (iirc, all the big amyloid-disposed proteins A-beta, alpha-Synuclein are natively unfolded[1]) seems like it would be fraught with error to begin with. Not to mention the presence of Fc-receptors[2] in these cells, which will bind to any antibody[2]


    Anyway, I don’t see how pointing out a (supposed) major flaw underlying the methods used by a billion dollar/y field of research is a “negative result”.

      • Daniel: At first I read your first sentence as saying “almost significant.” That would be quite large and not particularly enjoyable to read. ;~)

      • I want a funding agency and journal devoted to biological measurements. This would be number of enzyme X per cell, reaction rate of enzyme X, cell division rates, etc. All this in various tissues at different ages for various species. Also a funding agency and journal meant to elicit lively discussion about the validity of the various measurement and analysis methods being used.

        • Perhaps you could propose the “Journal Of Significant But No Current Practical Use Results”?

          I include the word “current” in remembrance of the tragic fate of George Boole. His great creation suddenly acquired practical significance, the poor man.

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