The New York Times recently had an interesting piece on its blog “The Upshot” that all of us at SOFI really liked. Titled “To Get More Out of Science, Show the Rejected Research,” the author argues that “…studies that do not turn out as planned or find no evidence of effects claimed in previous research often go unpublished, even though their findings can be important and informative.”
Academia suffers from publication bias. Journals almost always publish novel, statistically significant research. Anything else flies under the radar. The problem is, this system disregards results that may be useful to other researchers in that field, although they aren’t deemed publishable by a major journal. Rather than drawing on a solid and comprehensive foundation of data, researchers must draw from selectively published findings.
We think about this issue a lot at SOFI, and how much data must be missing from the collective conversation within the field of solar fuels because of this publication system. Our answer to this problem is the Knowledge Map. We’re working to collect as much of that unpublished data as we can, to present it in a searchable database, with meaningful metrics, so we can put all this knowledge to use.
We love the “radically different publishing model” put forth in the New York Times piece, but we’re not just stopping at formally published research. We think everything from lab notes to Powerpoints could prove useful, and our dream is collect and organize this information so it can be used.
Bottom line, the publishing model for scientific research has some major problems. We’re trying to do our part in our little corner of the research world to make a better, smarter system.