In science, as in life, we all like to celebrate the big news.
There’s a problem with the body of published knowledge. Where are all the null findings? Knowing researchers had previously tried an experiment not received the expected results might steer a clinician away from a treatment or mean a researcher doesn’t try exactly the same experiment. It might also reduce the likelihood a researcher spots and improves upon the design of a study. We have included links to two related items.
Yet without non-detections – what we call the null result – the progress of science would often be slowed and stymied. Null results drive us forward. They keep us from repeating the same errors, and shape the direction of future studies.
There is, in fact, much that we can learn from nothing.
Often, however, null results don’t make it to scientific publications. This not only can generate significant inefficiencies in the way science is done, it’s an indicator of potentially bigger problems in the current scientific publication processes.