When I was in graduate school, one of the most important things I divined from the teaching was the massive hole in published scholarly research that doesn’t report what wasn’t found. Too many educational journals only report new research or confirmed findings. What’s missing is the public sharing of failures: ”This is what we thought, and here’s how we tried to prove it, but it didn’t work out, and here’s why.”
That lack of “failure to find” in scholarly publications can be deadly to an academic reputation and so there is tremendous pressure to “find something!” that will be meaningful and dramatic and history-staking so you can get that tenure appointment or research grant or university award you so truly covet.
The sad fact of academia is that some researchers are not honest. They fudge findings and manipulate studies to prove “what they thought” was, indeed, correct and not a failure. Too many of us make the mistake of believing everything we read in print — we must always be cynical and question proven thought — and that’s why the Retraction Watch blog is one of the most vital tools we have in our thinking arsenal for setting the scholarly record straight after a malicious manipulation of what we think we know makes it in print.