The Potential of Data

Negative Data has the Potential to be Positive

From the Science-Fiction series The VOX of SU’s SHELL


We know much more about what something is not, rather than what it is. If we already knew all there was to learn, we wouldn’t need science or education, we wouldn’t have religion, nor would there be war. We would be all-knowing. We would be Gods. –Dr. Mary J. Sus

To Je’s surprise, she had no problem finding another fellowship after working at the GIMP. Following her experience in the Devilic lab, she decided to work in academic science rather than industry. Although she found pitfalls within every avenue of research.

Publish or Perish

In Je’s academic career she spent a lot of time working on experiments that had already been conducted by other scientists. Whether or not it was because they left prematurely, or they were not yielding the expected results, she found it tedious to redo years of experimentation.

In general, there is a lot of data pushed aside in medical research. Whether it be from negative data (data that does not answer the hypothetical question), failed experimentation, troubleshooting, or unfinished experiments, there is a lot more unpublished science than published. Which means, there is a lot of repeated scientific effort and information that remains unshared.

A scientist depends on academic publishing to share experimental outcomes, including methods. If research remains unpublished, there is no way for other scientists to know whether a technique works or has been previously carried out and perfected. In many cases, experiments and troubleshooting efforts get repeated by other scientists until the information gets published.

When Je looked at the shelves of data that would never get shared or published, the first thought that came to mind was there is a lot of grant funding shelved with that data.

If a topic gets hot on the publishing press, scientists will search through related unpublished experiments, to get their idle research published. Science only gets funded if it is publishable.

 “Publish or perish.”

The academic publishing industry became a determining factor in how both scientific information and grant funding got distributed.

While Je understood how this industry came in to play, she didn’t agree with holding back advancement for the sake of publishing. Science is competitive because funding is competitive, but funding is competitive because of strained resources. Scientific resources get strained when information is held back.

Scientists add to the strain of resources and funding by repeating each other’s experiments and making the same mistakes; all because research gets withheld for the sake of publishing.

Publishing is competitive and lucrative, but publishing became digital. Which means Publishing has less overhead and takes less work than it once had before the convenience of the global web.

Anyone can publish information online and have a global audience. And the cost is minimal.

Academic publishing is an economic powerhouse. It is incredibly lucrative and controls information flow.

Academic Publishers create revenue at both ends. Scientist pay publishers as producers and consumers.

Scientists and institutes pay to publish and pay to get access to published information.

Also, scientists do all the work. Scientific articles are edited by peer-review, not by publishers.

And we are not talking about small costs. We are talking about thousands to tens of thousands per experiment that is used to pay for publishing, and thousands to tens of thousands for institutions to access academic journals housing research outcomes to advance with the global perspective.

The academic publishing industry is a multi-billion-dollar business.

It is incredible that scientists wouldn’t fight against a system that limited advancement. But once a mechanism becomes a powerhouse like academic publishing, it can’t be curtailed.

An economic powerhouse will create supply and demand, even when there is no longer a demand.

In the digital age, where there is little cost for publishing information worldwide, how is the supply-and-demand created?

Prestige.

Of course, there is nothing prestigious about wasting grant funding on publishing; but publishers largely determine where government grants and donations get spent.

How? By peddling prestige.

Introducing an impact factor, by publishers, created a new demand for high-cost publishing. An impact factor is the statistical scoring of how much impact a publisher has on science. If a publisher is prestigious, it will cost more, and have a higher “impact factor,” according to whom?

Academic Publishers determine their impact factor, setting their prestigious worth.

Prestige is contrived.

Publishers create demand by making the submission process competitive and charge ungodly prices, so only those with funding can afford to publish with “high impact” publishers.

Considering that the real impact of an invention is its utility, the impact factor gives scientists a false sense of prestige.

The utilization of an invention determines its significance. If a majority uses it, it has a high impact. If it becomes an essential impact on life, it is of the highest consequence. If an impact factor is needed to see an inventions statistical value as an impact, it does not have a real significant effect on life.

Making Negative Data Positive, and Unpublishable Science Publishable

After three years of contemplating the “publish or perish” paradigm of science, Je decided to start a campaign to change the way data was shared among scientists.

Je started a digital repository and journal called The Archives of Unpublishable Science otherwise known as The Archives of US.

It caught on around among her peers. Even her graduate school advisor and mentor, Dr. Jay F. Christi, joined the editorial board.

The slogan for The Archives of US became, “Making Negative Data Positive, and Unpublishable Science Publishable.”

The idea was behind the fact that a large amount of shelved data, is “negative.”  Negative data is not bad data, but information that does not support a hypothesis or contribute to a conclusion. Science is a process of deduction, so there is usually more negative data than positive data that comes out of an experiment, especially early in the process. If the data is shared to support other research, it could potentially become positive data.

Je’s goal was to create an open publishing system for scientists and institutes to share their unpublished data. It wasn’t necessarily a lucrative idea but could potentially save a lot of grant funding wasted on repeated experimentation and troubleshooting.

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About Dr. Mason 24 Articles
Dr. Mason is a scientist and writer with a Ph.D in Biology with a focus in Bioengineering and training in human clinical research. As a researcher she studied regenerative medicine and cell developmental biology. She is a published author of many academic and textbook articles, and writes science-fiction. She has been serving as the Chief Science Officer at Info Surf Consulting since 2018.