May 10, 2023

Marina Emborg, medical physics professor and director of the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Preclinical Parkinson’s Research Program, focuses on understanding and developing treatments for neurological disorders in a highly collaborative, interdisciplinary fashion. 


In her article, “Reframing the perception of outliers and negative data in translational research,” published last month in Brain Research Bulletin, Emborg describes how publishing negative or unexpected data from a research project helps scientific research advance. 


Scientific results are termed ‘positive’ when supporting the driving hypothesis and ‘negative’ when countering it. Both can be equally informative. But it is noteworthy that ‘negative’ data differs from ‘useless’ data. 

  • Useless data is defined as the results obtained by a biased or poorly performed experiment. 
  • Negative data are unexpected results that prove or disprove a hypothesis in a way not previously known. 

“Overall, the paper aims to reframe the perception of working with, reporting and reviewing unexpected data as an opportunity to provide rationale for innovative ideas, prevent the misuse of limited resources and, ultimately, strengthen the reputation of a scientist,” writes Emborg in the paper’s abstract. 

While scientists may be initially disappointed by negative data, analyzing it is helpful for the scientific community, including individual scientists, explains Emborg, whose lab is based at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. 

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