Negative Results

January 30, 2008

Although scientists are trained to be objective about the results of their experiments, one cannot help being a bit more excited when the results are “positive,” i.e. the reaction occurred as you had predicted. This is cause for celebration, tell your boss and start writing your Nobel acceptance speech. At the very least the results will be written up and perhaps published.

But, as is often the case, the results do not always support the hypothesis. This is simply the scientific process; the results are written in a lab notebook, the hypothesis is revised and another experiment is performed to test the new hypothesis.

But what happens to the negative results? Yes they are written in the notebook and become part of the researcher’s knowledge which leads him to reformulate a new hypothesis, but are they captured in way which enables them to become part of the lab group’s knowledge base? Not in most cases.

WayFarer now has a feature that allows the researcher to capture this negative result explicitly and allow it to be easily shared with team or community members. Any reaction that can be asserted can be refuted as well. Refuting a reaction does not erase the reaction; rather it becomes the latest part of the reaction’s history. Refuting a reaction can also be done on a reaction that had been attributed to another researcher but had since been disproved or refined to the point where the previous results had to be restated.

By retaining this knowledge in an easily retrievable form, recounting the logical reasoning that went into developing a subsequent hypothesis and transferring that knowledge to another researcher will proceed much quicker with less effort. This allows you to leverage all of the results of your lab’s work, not just a highly filtered selection.

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