Disincentive for Scientific Research

When I was on my way to start my own undergraduate research project in economics, I remember talking to one of my professors and soaking up his advice.  We got to the issue of talking about the purpose of papers and its impact for your career.  The bottom line was this: if you have good results you publish, and if you didn’t, all that time you wasted was for nothing! That was the risk that scholars took when doing scientific research.  (Since most  economic research follows the scientific method, I assume it would be the same)

After working my butt off in undergrad to have something that it is at least passable for a technical paper, my results were mixed and of course, not interesting enough for anything to be considered.  If I wanted to be serious (I mean this is undergrad here, it really isn’t) I could have published it, but only in Journals other than the top tier, which from what I am told in the beginning, is a career killer.  You end up being called a “wanna-be” academic as my mentor called it.

So, of course what do I find on a neuroscience blog? A call for a Journal (top tiered, I would hope) dedicated to flops when testing hypotheses.  It certainly is needed (beside the attempt of others to comfort me ) for the academic world in order for it to highlight failed avenues for research.  Or even better, if your original study was flawed, maybe someone could find a better way to achieve a result that is more in line with your hypothesis.

I find that this focus on only “positive” results is a disincentive for people trying to break through academic scientific fields.  Why would I work so hard on something, get paid terribly for it, (or not at all) end up with nothing and have to suffer for it?  The risk reward doesn’t match up and academia needs to start evaluating a) why “negative” results are just as valuable from the start of ones career as it is later and b) to attract more talent by reducing the risk reward for being able to have a career in practicing good science regardless of the results.


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