When preclinical science is properly conducted, negative results—or results that do not confirm the expected outcome or original hypotheses—are a natural occurrence. However, much of the science that is published is skewed towards positive results only, with some estimates indicating that 85% of all published studies in neuroscience report positive data only1. Thus, the conscious decision to not make negative results publically available is the norm, not the exception, in preclinical research, leading to substantial positive publication bias, where researchers are unlikely to publish negative data due to real or perceived negative effects on their careers and publishers are less likely to accept negative data publications because they are perceived as less likely to be cited by other researchers. The end result of this reduced transparent reporting is the loss of time and money as researchers pursue avenues of scientific inquiry that are bound to fail.
However, negative data has significant value for the scientific process, helping researchers avoid pursuing fruitless lines of scientific inquiry, increasing transparency and public trust in research results, and informing policy makers and priority setters when making decisions on future investments.
About the Prize
In an effort to incentivize preclinical researchers of all fields to publish their “negative data” results and catalyze a paradigm shift in which negative data is valued according to the same standards as positive data, the Global Preclinical Data Forum started the first ever prize for negative data in 2017. The Best Negative Data Prize in Preclinical Neuroscience is a collaboration between the European College for Neuropsychopharmacology and Cohen Veterans Bioscience, under the backing of the Global Preclinical Data Forum, and it is awarded every other year.
The winner of The Best Negative Data Prize in Preclinical Neuroscience is awarded 10,000 Euros (made possible through the generous support of Cohen Veterans Bioscience) as is expected to accept the prize and present a talk about their negative results paper in person at the annual ECNP. Travel and accommodation expenses will be covered.
Who May Apply
First or corresponding authors may submit applications that:
- Written in English and published or accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal that is CURRENTLY listed by Web of Science and/or Scopus;
- Date of publication is not older than March 1, 2017 (last 5 years);
- Reports results of a non-clinical / non-human study (or set of studies);
- Is not a review;
- Is a full-length paper with detailed materials and methods section(s) (within the body of the paper or as supplementary information);
- In the field of Neuroscience.
All submissions for The Best Negative Data Prize in Preclinical Neuroscience are rigorously evaluated by an internal committee comprised of members of the Global Preclinical Data Forum’s Steering Committee and with the support of leading external experts.
Each paper undergoes a 4-step review process to include an evaluation of the data analysis and statistics (which may require access to the raw data), adherence to research rigor standards (including the ARRIVE 2.0 guidelines and Landis 4 Criteria), a technical review of the materials and methods to exclude technical errors, and a scientific review by two field-specific subject matter experts. The goal of this review process is 1) exclude any publications with negative results due to poor study design or possible technical or data analysis errors, and 2) to identify the submission that best exemplifies a negative data publication and that has implications for the field in which it is published by challenging the original notion or scientific precedent.
Previous Prize Winners
2022: No winner was selected for the 2022 prize as none of the submissions successfully advanced through the 4-step review process.
2020: Jeremy Bailoo, Eimear Murphy, Justin Varholick, Janja Novak, Rupert Palme, & Hanno Würbel, Evaluation of the Effects of Space Allowance on Measures of Animal Welfare in Laboratory Mice, Scientific Reports 8, 713 (2018). The prize was presented to Dr. Jeremy Bailoo at the 33rd ECNP Congress Virtual, September 12-15, 2020
2018: Laura Luyten & Tom Beckers, A preregistered, direct replication attempt of the retrieval-extinction effect in cued fear conditioning in rats.
Neurobiology of Learning and Memory 144 (2017), 208–215. The prize was presented to Dr. Tom Beckers at the 31st ECNP Congress, Barcelona, Spain, October 6-9, 2018.
1 Fanelli, D. (2010). ‘‘Positive’’ results increase down the Hierarchy of the Sciences. PLoS One 5, e10068
2 Kaiser, Science June 9th 2015. See http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2015/06/study-claims-28-billion-year-spent-irreproducible-biomedical-research.
According to Dr. Thomas Steckler (Janssen Pharmaceutica NV):
“Science is historically self-correcting. This process is most effective when both positive and negative results are published. However, negative results are less likely to get published because they are often believed to generate less “value” for an individual scientist, organization or journal. Indeed, compared with the positive data, negative data may appear less exciting, are less likely to open new avenues of research and therefore new funding opportunities. Unpublished data is effectively a waste of valuable real and human capital, particularly in the face of the reproducibility challenge currently discussed in various fields of science: reproducibility in neuroscience has come under particular focus in recent years. It’s startling to realize that over 50% of published biomedical data cannot be reproduced”.2
Dr. Anton Bespalov (PAASP), added:
“There are hundreds of drug trials which have failed in the last few years. Analysis of the factors that led to these failures is very often compromised by the biased representation of the early, preclinical work. The prize aims to emphasize to scientists and academic publishers that there is real value in publishing all the results, not just the headline-grabbing positive results”.