‘Missing Pieces’ come together in science journal collection

Science & Tech Editor

A prominent primary scientific literature source unveiled a new collection of articles March 5 that seeks to highlight publications from a new perspective. According to its website, PLoS ONE is a journal committed to “consider(ing) all work that makes a contribution to the field independent of impact.” The new collection, entitled “Missing Pieces,” seeks to call attention to inconclusive findings to increase the efficiency of scientific output and call attention to data that may be traditionally overlooked.

One such study, “Curated MicroRNAs in Urine and Blood Fail to Validate as Predictive Biomarkers for High-Risk Prostate Cancer,” met the criteria for the collection because its results concluded that an experimental biomarker did not translate to early diagnosis of prostate cancer. Essentially, specific microRNAs (miRNAs) previously showed promise in in vitro studies as less invasive measures of prostate cancer, and the research team sought to translate these findings to a clinical setting. However, following extensive cohort analysis, the team found that profiling for miRNAs in blood or urine yielded no consistent results as compared to the control group. Therefore, the team found that its proposed detection protocol for prostate cancer was not valid.

Ordinarily, results such as these would face difficulties reaching publication because the results differ from the successful treatments that people hope to see. However, PLoS’s new collection contains nearly 20 articles with similarly useful, yet easy to overlook, results. In one study, researchers found that tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, did not improve upon playing specialized video games. In another study, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that capsaicin did not relieve inguinal postherniorrhaphy pain as compared to a control group. Results such as these do not garner the same attention that results which validate exciting hypotheses do.

George Gomez, Ph.D., a biology professor at The University, said he supports the new collection.

“Many people think science is about finding conclusive results, and that can lead to only verified hypotheses being published,” Gomez said. “(The journal’s) approach can bring about the notion that science isn’t just about finding facts. Science is about testing well-defined hypotheses; whether confirmed or disproven, both are important.”

The initiative by PLoS ONE should aid future researchers by reducing redundant failed trials and making them less concerned about the impact of their results and more concerned about the rigorous application of the scientific process.


March 27, 2015

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