In the Northern Hemisphere, we just passed the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. From here on out, the hours of darkness each day will slowly decrease as our days become filled with more light (at least until June 20).
Have we reached a similar turning point when it comes to dark data? Dark data, as defined by Sandra Petty, Hugo Stephenson, and Sarah Hadley in their recent article Shining More Light on Dark Data, is the research that never sees the light of day. Whether because it is negative, inconclusive, or confirmatory, a significant proportion of research is funded and well conducted, and potentially impactful, but left unpublished in a file drawer or lab notebook. This can lead to publication bias, wherein the effects of a particular treatment, drug, or method appear more positive because that’s what is published.
In the days of print only, this made a certain amount of sense: When space is at a premium, it’s tougher to make the case that research that doesn’t prove a hypothesis is more valuable than positive research. Or at least that was the assumption, and it became self-fulfilling among authors and editors alike.
But as the authors of the article show, as science has moved online and become more open, much of this research has been able to move out of the shadows. But there is more that can be done, particularly regarding changing the research culture to better support and provide incentive to researchers to make even their “negative” results public. Organizations such as Center for Biomedical Research Transparency (CBMRT), which was founded by the article authors, are working to foster these changes through meetings and other initiatives, including working directly with journals such as Neurology to support the publication of negative research and other dark data.
Journal editors can help by thinking hard about what really qualifies as “novel” and “significant,” making sure those aren’t substitutes for “positive” and “flashy”; rigorous, well-conducted research that fails to prove an interesting hypothesis can still make a significant impact by saving fellow researchers countless hours and shaping the direction of a field. To paraphrase a quote from the article, if you don’t know what doesn’t work, it can be a lot harder to find out what does.
Editor-in-Chief, Science Editor
As a reminder, it’s time to renew your CSE Membership for 2020! CSE Members can login to the Members Only Area with their member login credentials to renew their membership and continue to access all of Science Editor and the many other benefits of CSE.
The Winter 2019 issue of Science Editor published recently, collecting International Perspectives exploring what it means to be an international, geographically diverse journal or organization and providing suggestions for improvement. The cover image is a detail from “Des Principales Montagnes et du Cours des Principaux Fleuves due Monde” (“Main Mountains and the Course of the Main Rivers of the World”) published by J. Andriveau-Goujon in 1829 (courtesy of the David Rumsey Map Collection, https://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/s/dl6cs6).
Recent Early Online Article
Since we’re looking back, it seems like we’ve been hearing for decades that the internet will remove international barriers to research. And yet, researchers in low- and middle-income countries continue to face significant challenges and barriers to acceptance in a scholarly communication system dominated by the “Global North”. In her recent article, Siân Harris, a communications specialist at INASP, outlines way we can move Toward Global Equity in Scholarly Communication, including some specific recommendation for improving global diversity in journals.
Resource of the Month
Being an editor and working at scientific publication requires being ever knowledgeable of a rapidly changing scientific and publishing landscape, so each month we highlight a resource that will hopefully make this at least a little bit easier.
Keeping on the topic of improving international representation in journals, this recent Science article implores: Reviewers, don’t be rude to nonnative English speakers. I found the tips the author provides for constructive reviews to be helpful, including avoiding requesting authors have their manuscript checked by “a native English speaker” as if all native English speakers are by default good writers (hint: they are not). [Thanks to Lyndsee Cordes for the recommendation.]
Bonus Resource! The 2020 CSE Webinar Series begins on Thursday, January 23 with How to Join the Club: Indexing Your Journal from 12:00 – 1:00 pm ET. Having your journal indexed in scholarly databases is essential for legitimacy and increased readership, and this webinar is will provide valuable tips and hopefully answer your questions.
Hot Articles from Recent Issues (For CSE Members only)
As a CSE member benefit, once Science Editor articles are moved to an issue, they are available only to CSE Members for one year.
How do authors decide where to submit? Cynics scream “Impact Factor!” but as Lee Ann Kleffman found in her survey of Neurology journal authors, the reasons are a little more complicated than that one metric: The Complex Relationship of Impact Factors, Open Access Models, and Manuscript Submissions
Not a CSE member? Additional membership info along with instructions for becoming a member of the Council of Science Editors can be found here.
Reminder: Call for Columnists
Science Editor has an open call for new recurring columnists. Do you have a topic you would like to write about on a regular basis? If so, let me know. If you’ve got a topic you’d like to hear about more often, but you’re not able to write a column yourself, let me know that too; if you have a suggestion for a writer, even better. Keep in mind, as a quarterly publication, committing to write a regular column for Science Editor isn’t too significant of a commitment and even a semi-annual or annual column might make sense depending on the topic. If you’re interested, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
As I did last January, I’ll once again pose the following question: “What are your professional resolutions for the year 2020?” And then add, “What are your professional resolutions for the 2020s?” It can be daunting to think about where you’ll be ten years from now, but it’s easier to process in yearly portions. What you hope to accomplish this year at your organization or in your career may be just a small piece of what you accomplish in this coming decade, but everything builds on what came before.
Best of luck in 2020!
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