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Invisible Science

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Luís Fernando Sayão
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ABSTRACT Introduction: The results of scientific research considered negative - unconfirmed hypotheses, unexpected data, inconclusive experiments and more - are always present in the flows of scientific knowledge construction, constituting an essential component for the more comprehensive and integral vision of the multiple faces of the laboratory routine. Furthermore, it is these studies that refute current ideas and consolidated hypotheses that advance science. However, negative studies do not find a high-impact formal publication medium and are not fully valued in the scientific environment and by its institutions. There are many barriers to not publishing and sharing these results. Objective: Trying to understand this phenomenon, the present study, through the observation of the scarce literature in the area, analyzes the main causes of the invisibility of negative studies. Methodology: Based on exploratory and qualitative research, the search and analysis of the scarce literature on the subject is adopted as a methodological resource, investigating and systematizing the main causes of the invisibility of negative studies. Results: As a result, the following barriers are identified and systematized: contextual, cognitive, professional, organizational and editorial. Conclusion: It is concluded that although there is a movement around the creation of journals and other platforms dedicated to negative results, these information assets still need to be valued and integrated to the scientific communication flows, providing a greater visibility to non-confirmatory studies.
An important part of scientific research activities yield negative results – non-confirmatory and null data, inconclusive experiments, unexpected data. These results permeate the entire research cycle and constitute an important part of the full scientific knowledge flow generation. However, despite the acknowledgment that it is the non-confirmatory findings that result in the rejection of consolidated hypotheses that drive the progress of science, most of these investigation routes are not documented. Growing competition for resources, tenure, and impact publications induces researchers to produce “positive” results that are more likely to be published, interfering with the principles of science reproducibility and self-correction and in the scientific communication cycle. This study aims to review negative results incorporation in the traditional academic publication cycle. It also seeks to identify and systematize the main barriers that prevent researchers from publishing negative results. This exploratory study is based methodologically on the scarce literature on the subject. It confirms the initial assumption that few scientific journals accept, edit special issues or are dedicated to the publication of negative results.