A new journal from Cambridge University Press will take a radical new approach to both publishing and peer reviewing research.

Scholarly communication isn’t really reflective of the research process, because the focus is on publishing a concise narrative. The reality is that research results are often confusing, inconclusive, or don’t fit a narrative

Fiona Hutton

Experimental Results aims to tackle the crisis in the reproducibility of results, provide an outlet for standalone research that currently goes unpublished and to make peer review faster, less onerous and more transparent.

Submissions are now open for the journal, which will give researchers a place to publish valid, standalone experimental results, regardless of whether those results are novel, inconclusive, negative or supplementary to other published work.

It will also publish the outcome of attempts to reproduce previously published experiments, including those that dispute past findings.

The ambitious publication is the brainchild of Fiona Hutton, the Press’s Head of STM Open Access Publishing and addresses concerns she has had since her days in the lab as a cancer research scientist and throughout her career in research publishing.

She said: “Scholarly communication isn’t really reflective of the research process, because the focus is on publishing a concise narrative. The reality is that research results are often confusing, inconclusive, or don’t fit a narrative. Discovery is damaged when the focus becomes the research paper rather than the research output itself.

“I've had countless conversations with scientists about the value of publishing all valid experiments, not just those that fit the narrative of a particular paper or which are deemed to have a high impact. It would save so much time if researchers could see that a particular experiment had already been carried out and what the results were.

“Openly available raw results for these experiments could also be used and interrogated in different ways; ways that the original researcher did not identify, further facilitating discovery and justifying investment in that research."

In addition, Experimental Results will shake up peer review, introducing scorecards to make the process easier, more open and more attractive to potential reviewers, with each reviewer identified by name and with each review published alongside the article in question with its own DOI.

This will allow the journal’s reviewers to have their work recognised. They will also be given discounts on the cost of publishing their own articles in Experimental Results.

Fiona added: “Our goal is to be progressive, to ensure research outputs are correctly reviewed, and to ensure the reviewers we rely on so heavily are rewarded. This makes sense, much like the journal itself makes sense in its reflection of the actual research process.”

While some journals publish full-paper negative or inconclusive results, published stand-alone results are a rarity. Experimental Results will address the issue in a structured way, with open research practices underpinning the entire concept.

The journal will be fully open access, assessed through open peer review, and link to open data where possible.

Fiona said: “Part of the problem is that the peer review process doesn’t actually involve checking the results or repeating the experiment.

“Lots of results come out that people can’t repeat but what do they do? Even if they know of other labs that can’t repeat that experiment, if it’s published in a high impact journal then it’s very difficult to dispute those results. Experimental Results will be a venue for researchers to quickly publish reproducibility experiments.”

The Press’s STM Publishing Director, Caroline Black, said: "We are seeing an increasing acknowledgement that all research outputs – not just the positive, exciting results - should be part of the published record for the advancement of knowledge and reduction of wasted time on redoing work unnecessarily.

“In the past it would have been difficult to publish negative, confirmatory or inconclusive results, as journal editors made decisions on the basis of innovation, interest level and potential for citations. That's beginning to change now.

“People are also looking for alternative types of publication; it's not all about the traditional journal article, complete with introduction, discussion and conclusion setting out the importance of the results. It's great that we are at the forefront of providing them with a new platform."

Press release from Cambridge University Press

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