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Negative Irreproducible Tweets For Science Publishing 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-let's-not-call-them-that dept.
New submitter mwolfam writes "Every scientist has at least one paper or graph tucked in a folder that lies in a dusty corner of the hard drive next to that dancing baby that used to be all the rage. The data is interesting, but doesn't lend itself to the creation of the grand narrative you must have for a traditional publication. It's time to expand traditional scientific publication to include a place for the data that normally falls through the cracks: short but interesting bits of data, negative results, and irreproducible results."
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Negative Irreproducible Tweets For Science Publishing

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  • Maybe scientific Facebook pages that link to the Arxiv page?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They'll have a field day with it, along with the moon landing and JFK conspiracies.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    We've already got it... arXiv.org

    • arXiv stores papers, not data. It is expected that what you put there has been accepted in a journal.

      • by ODBOL (197239) on Friday January 06, 2012 @07:23PM (#38616154) Homepage
        I am a moderator for arXiv, and I am quite sure that submissions are filtered only for prima facie relevance, and do not have to be "accepted in a journal." The format of arXiv is probably not suitable for all sorts of data, but lots of data can be presented as text and can be placed in arXiv.
        • by definate (876684)

          That's cool, but text is not an optimal format for this. Some sort of large online database or code repository, would be much better suited to it. Like those Google has.

        • Perhaps the best idea, would be a science orientated source control repository, where the data and a brief could be "dumped", and others that wanted to work with it, or incorporate it into their work, could either create a new branch (if they join the repository), or they could create their own fork.

          Of course it would need to have a good interface like GitHub, but more orientated for publishing in TeX.

  • by bkaul01 (619795) on Friday January 06, 2012 @05:52PM (#38615010)
    Such a thing already exists: many journals (at least in my field) accept submissions for "technical notes" that aren't full-fledged papers, but merely describe a brief, interesting bit of data, etc. It's more a question of whether the researcher has any incentive to put the time into writing them up and submitting them than a problem of a lack of venues for us to do so.
    • by kharchenko (303729) on Friday January 06, 2012 @05:59PM (#38615090)

      Tweets are an abomination. You still have to describe what you've done properly, otherwise the reported result is of no value.
      There are journals [jnrbm.com] that were created specifically to report negative results. Irreproducible results, on the other hand, are not a scientific matter [jir.com].

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        Nah. Irreproducible results are a scientific matter. Often one irreproducible result later turns out to be reproducible after controlling for something that you weren't looking for before.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Often one irreproducible result later turns out to be reproducible after controlling for something that you weren't looking for before.

          Irreproducible results rarely become reproducible. If that change was often, then science would be insanely productive and scary.

          • by dgatwood (11270)

            In established scientific fields, that might be true, but on the bleeding edge of research, initial failures quite frequently lead to subsequent successes when the hypothesis is correct, but the test equipment, methodology, or sample size is insufficient. Similarly, initial successes often stop working.

            One great example of this is medical research. Frequently, things that aren't initially reproducible in studies later turn out to occur far more reliably in the real world. Half the recalls in medicine occ

    • by grqb (410789) on Friday January 06, 2012 @06:35PM (#38615500) Homepage Journal

      I think the tweet idea is slightly different. For example, a lot of work that a scientist does is collecting data to make sure equipment is working properly. Usually these experiments aren't worth publishing and probably wouldn't make it past a peer review because 1) they're usually not novel experiments 2) they don't tell a story or add much value, but I think it could be useful to share this type of data. I mean, if you've collected it, why not share it?

  • While not a horribly bad idea, it would be of limited use. The reason science doesn't dwell on the odd irregular result, and especially on results that can't be reproduced, is that you cannot draw any conclusions from them.
    • Re:Of limited use (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tlhIngan (30335) <.slashdot. .at. .worf.net.> on Friday January 06, 2012 @06:05PM (#38615156)

      While not a horribly bad idea, it would be of limited use. The reason science doesn't dwell on the odd irregular result, and especially on results that can't be reproduced, is that you cannot draw any conclusions from them.

      Maybe not by itself, but sometimes interesting correlations pop up because of strange combinations. Or more likely, someone gets the results they were expecting, but sees an odd variance they can't explain. Perhaps if it was seen elsewhere, the odd data correllation may have some merit in investigation.

      It's like an odd bug you find when using some software. You don't think it's important (perhaps it happens occasionally), but someone else decides to just mention it in passing, and then others chime in as it happened to them, and then hey, perhaps it's a bigger bug than expected.

      Just putting it out there may bring others to notice they see the same thing as well and then provide incentive to do proper research in it.

    • by crutchy (1949900)
      odd irregular results still affect the R value of a curve fit, which helps determine the overall validity of the curve. they should not be ignored, at most they can be omitted from curve fitting if they can be explained
    • Of course, it was ~30 years later [nobelprize.org] after Shechtman had been ridiculed for his 'quasicrystal' discovery. [wikipedia.org]

      So even if 99.9% of the time, the 'odd, irregular result' is worthless ... there's also the chance that it's revolutionary, and we want to make sure that those get preserved. It might be that 5 people have similar 'odd, irregular' results, but they can then compare notes amongst themselves and figure out what might be the significant factor and make it reproducable.

  • Useful (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I can see this being really useful, especially if the raw data could be easily accessed and manipulated. On the other hand, I, as a researcher, would be loath to simply give away data, even data for which I can forsee little use, just on the off chance that it could be used in a future publication, or form the basis of further work. A rather ignoble attitude, I'll admit, but one which I'm sure many others would share, and I think this would be a huge obstacle for the idea.

    • That is because giving that data away won't contribute to your career, but holding it until publishing will.

      This problem is an easy to fix one.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Friday January 06, 2012 @05:56PM (#38615048) Homepage Journal

    Well, if it gets it out there, but why Twitter? It's going to have to compete with all the usual garbage which is trending.

    Brett6565 Vampires in yet another TV show :P #fail #bloodsuckers

    Wignut Yankees sign another pitcher #goyanks

    Waddleduck Another show about lawyers #fail #bloodsuckers

    Cherbonevski sci.fi/fd98guyrr Nucleotides enzymolgy in e. nemtodii #science #wowwee #knowledge

    yellomello Moar lolcat pictures of my kitty! bit.ly/r9d8gns9ds #LOL #CATS #LOLCATS

    cityfied Tevez to Milan! Good-bye and don't let the door hit you on the arse on the way out! #MCFC #TEVEZ
     

  • OMG. (Score:2, Redundant)

    by tenco (773732)

    Prepare to be drowned in irrelevant data.

    • Prepare to be drowned in irrelevant data.

      People reading these posts are online. They are already drowned in irrelevant data. The content being described probably wouldn't amount to a noticeable increase. On the other hand it might, perhaps we could quantify the increase and publish a paper. ;-)

      • Compared to the scientific data out there, this content will be orders of magnitude bigger. And, yes, researchers are already drowned in useless data (several kinds of those, like irrelevant, unreliable, undecipherable).

        It would be in everybody's interest to keep that new data separated. Then, people could use some search algorithms to walk through it. How to traverse that amount of data would be reason to publish several papers.

  • Asimov's (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436) * on Friday January 06, 2012 @06:13PM (#38615242) Homepage Journal
    The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it) but 'That's funny...'
    • by perpenso (1613749)

      The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it) but 'That's funny...'

      Unless that scientist is your physician and looking at your test results. :-)

  • It's been done (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SoftwareArtist (1472499) on Friday January 06, 2012 @06:21PM (#38615310)

    Journal of Failed Crystallization Experiments [proteincry...graphy.org]

    Ok, some of the humor is a bit esoteric for those who don't know much molecular biology. You'll just have to take my word for it that it's really funny!

  • by SEWilco (27983)
    I have the most logically organized and beautifully poetic reply to this. It would bring tears of joy to your grandchildren's eyes, but it will not fit in this space. I'll just tweet about it.
  • There is a journal entirely devoted to exactly that.

    • by notreez (1093359)
      And if I remember correctly it was called "The Journal of Irreproducible Results." I probably still have some laying around.
  • by perpenso (1613749) on Friday January 06, 2012 @06:27PM (#38615378)
    Isn't this what the web is for? Put it on the web, let google index it, and it will be far more accessible that anything else ... "national firewalls" permitting of course.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Journal for Irreproducible results:

    http://www.jir.com/

  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday January 06, 2012 @06:59PM (#38615840) Homepage Journal

    The purpose of a title is to give the reader some inkling of what might come next.

    "Negative Irreproducible Tweets For Science Publishing" may be the worst [not incorrect] Slashdot article title ever.

    Something like "A Plan for Publishing Minor Science Results on the Web" (or do better, you're the submitter) would at least not leave readers perplexed.

  • ... Slashdot Idle [slashdot.org] is for.

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Saturday January 07, 2012 @12:06AM (#38618824) Homepage

    For #1, there was The Journal of Earth Science Phenomena [esphenomena.org] (hasn't had anything new in over a year), where they'd publish what they called 'micro-articles', which was mostly just a picture and a short description. Unlike a tweet, it actually had some peer-review, and enough information to make the item useful in its own regard. In solar physics, it's not a journal, but there's the Heliophysics Event Registry [lmsal.com], where scientists can submit events/features/phenomena, but it's not peer reviewed. (and some are submitted via pipeline processing, so there might not've been any human involved in the detection other than writing the software)

    For the negative results, there are plenty of dedicated journals in various fields, and if there isn't, there's always PLoS ONE [plosone.org]. It's possible that they might take the irreproducable stuff, too. In their description, they say they'll take anything that's 'technically sound' [plosone.org]. They do use a model that's different from other peer-reviewed journals, and go with the author-pays approach, which many of the other journals claim makes them invalid (yet, those same journals charge even more to make your article 'open access' if it gets accepted)

  • Journal of negative results will never become widespread because the scientific funding system does not favor it. It's a fantasy of a wide-eyed postdoc, who has yet to experience the cutthroat realities of the scientific funding system in the US. (I know this because I, and may others, used to have the same idea.) Here's why the concept is fatally flawed:

    The OP notes that your scientific colleagues are also your competitors. He then notes that if you don't report your scientific failures, that your coll

  • A database of negative results is actually already in beta: http://figshare.com/ [figshare.com] Psychology professor Jonathan Schooler also called for a negative trials database in Nature in February last year. He says it's possible such results could explain the 'decline effect' that plagues science http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110223/full/470437a.html [nature.com]
  • ...they'd know that data takes plural verbs, as it itself is the plural of datum.

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