Generating a piece of data that supports a new idea or hypothesis is a satisfying moment in scientific research. These data often result in scientific publications that stimulate new directions in the field. Negative data also hold value as researchers refine or revise their original hypothesis. But these results are more likely to be stored away in a lab notebook than written up for publication.
In an invited editorial published in Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, Professor Tonia Vincent argues that negative in vivo studies are crucial for understanding the causes of osteoarthritis (OA), and urges more effort to make these data publicly available.
Tonia wrote the piece as part of a Themed Issue on Negative in Vivo Studies that she co-edited together with Professor Anne-Marie Malfait, Rush University Medical Centre. The authors describe how negative studies can help rule out potential targets in OA. This was the case for Adamst4 – an enzyme that degrades cartilage in a dish but is dispensable for tissue destruction in joints.
The editorial also considers how researchers can make their negative data more accessible. Suggestions range from greater inclusion of negative data in supplemental manuscript figures, to the creation of an online repository where negative data can be deposited alongside detailed methodology. Importantly this could limit duplication between laboratories and help reduce the use of animals in research.
The Themed issue contains seven manuscripts reporting negative data that the editors felt have the potential to steer future OA research. These papers are complemented by expert reviews outlining how to design and report studies of OA disease models so that negative results can be interpreted more easily.
Tonia hopes this issue will stimulate the OA community to think differently about the value of negative results and ensure these data are shared more widely.