Vox Article - Fleming's discovery of penicillin couldn't get published today. That's a huge problem.
3 years, 6 months ago
Great article by Julia Belluz on the age of big data and whether "small science" should be published. Excerpt below:
"Over in Switzerland, Alzheimer's researcher Lawrence Rajendran has been asking himself a similar question: Should science be smaller again? Rajendran, who heads a laboratory at the University of Zurich, recently founded a journal called Matters.* Set to launch in early 2016, the journal aims to publish "the true unit of science" — the observation.
Rajendran notes that Alexander Fleming’s simple observation that penicillin mold seemed to kill off bacteria in his petri dish could never be published today, even though it led to the discovery of lifesaving antibiotics. That's because today's journals want lots of data and positive results that fit into an overarching narrative (what Rajendran calls "storytelling") before they'll publish a given study.
"You would have to solve the structure of penicillin or find the mechanism of action," he added.
But research is complex, and scientific findings may not fit into a neat story — at least not right away. So Rajendran and the staff at Matters hope scientists will be able to share insights in this journal that they may not been able to publish otherwise. He also thinks that if researchers have a place to explore preliminary observations, they may not feel as much pressure to exaggerate their findings in order to add all-important publications to their CVs."
* The new journal is open access and also allows you to publish subsequent observations!
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