This is the third in our series of posts highlighting the winners of the ASAPbio competition ‘Make your negative result a preprint winner,’ which celebrates the value of using preprints to share negative and inconclusive scientific results. In this post, we hear from Livia Songster (University of California San Diego), the first author of the preprint ‘Woronin bodies move dynamically and bidirectionally by hitchhiking on early endosomes in Aspergillus nidulans‘. Livia tells us about their research on microtubule-mediated intracellular transport in Aspergillus nidulans , discusses why it is important to better recognize negative results and shares ideas for steps to take to engage with preprints.
Tell us a little bit about the research project and results reported in the preprint
Our lab broadly studies the mechanisms and functions of microtubule-mediated intracellular transport. We previously found that in filamentous fungi like Aspergillus nidulans, peroxisomes move long distances by hitchhiking on motile early endosomes. The goal of this study was to test if peroxisome hitchhiking was important for a fungal-specific peroxisomal function. We demonstrate that Woronin bodies, peroxisome-derived organelles that plug septal pores upon injury to hyphae, also hitchhike on early endosomes. While Woronin bodies undergo hitchhiking for distribution and motility, we were surprised to find hitchhiking was dispensable for septal localization and plugging.
What would you say is the most valuable contribution of your results to your community?
Our results disprove a hypothesis in the field that peroxisome-derived Woronin bodies might require long-distance microtubule transport to localize at septa and thus plug septa after cellular injury. Research over the past few decades, including our study, has revealed that there is still much to learn about how filamentous fungi regulate septal pore closure in response to various stimuli and cellular damage.
Why did the group decide to post a preprint with these results?
We wanted to share our results and manuscript before submission to a journal and the peer review process.
Did you submit the paper for publication in a journal?
Yes. It has just been published in Molecular Biology of the Cell!
Would you encourage other researchers to write up negative results as preprints?
Absolutely! The connotation that any result is “positive” or “negative” depends entirely on how you frame your hypothesis. Often the most interesting result is the unexpected one. It is very important to share current research findings with the broader scientific community, and preprints are an excellent way to do that. This is especially important because the peer review process can take a long time and delay the dissemination of important findings.
How can we better recognize the value of negative results?
Write and cite papers (and preprints) reporting negative results. Encourage trainees and peers to do the same. Graduate programs should introduce students to the pros and cons of preprints and encourage students to comment on and/or review preprints using platforms like bioRxiv, PREreview, preLights, or ASAPbio’s Crowd preprint review, to name a few.
Historically, science publishing was restricted to journals and the limitations imposed by printed media. If you wanted your work to reach others, you had to publish in a journal with sufficient reach. I think that this (alongside the broader “publish or perish” mentality) occasionally creates a publishing bottleneck that reduces incentives to publish negative results. Journals should rethink their mission and goals and update them to better support modern scientists (if they haven’t already). Is it to curate research that follows a theme or focuses on a particular audience? Provide an intellectual community? Connect manuscripts/preprints to the peer review process? I think clarifying these goals would help journals re-align or re-imagine their publishing practices to better fit the modern technological era and better serve the scientific community as a whole.
Researchers should continue to utilize digital publication formats beyond journals, which today seems to be popularly preprints or personal websites/blogs. Researchers can also continue to reflect and discuss how we think about publications and how to disseminate our research effectively. These topics should absolutely be included in graduate school programming and updated frequently to stay current.
Our thanks to the competition winners for sharing their stories, and to all the participants in the competition for preprinting their negative and conclusive results!
We invite you to use preprints to share your negative results with the community. Remember that the Center for Biomedical Research Transparency (CBMRT) would like to feature more preprints reporting negative or null results on its Null Hypothesis Initiative. If you would like your preprint to appear on the Null Hypothesis website, please email Development@cbmrt.org.