Why is it that, in order to publish anything, it seems you are expected to always be saying something new? If your findings have already been found by someone else, your work is likely to be considered low priority or low quality for publishing.

Isn’t science partially built on the notion of confirming what we think we know? Given a good study design and execution, why should findings that don’t contradict what we know disqualify one’s work from serious consideration? How often do we see “important” studies replicated to see if the findings hold? Pretty much never.

In Memory Practices in the Sciences, Geoffrey Bowker mentions that it is well known that most scientific papers do not, in actuality, give enough information on methodology and methods for anyone to be able to replicate them. I’ve been frustrated with this before. I’ll find interesting studies with interesting findings that seem relevant to questions I may want to ask one day. But I can’t tell exactly how the researchers went about answering their questions. There are hand-wavy black boxes. “The data were analyzed” is probably my favorite. Explicitness of methods is one reason I enjoy reading dissertations; however, I keep in mind that dissertations are written by baby scholars and many experienced researchers have told me that after a few years you tend to realize just how embarassing your dissertation work was.

As with “not new” results, it’s the same with negative results. The big journals don’t want to publish them, even though they tell us a lot. So we have these Journals of Negative Results popping up in areas and disciplines.

Research, like everything else, seems to fall into the trap of privileging Newer Bigger Faster More! As some would say, “That’s life.”

I will not allow this to further demoralize me tonight.

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