Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Generally I'm not a fan of new journals. Too much academic fluff is getting published already, I see no reason to fluff even more. However, this new journal struck me as having a novel and valuable mission behind it: The Journal of Serendipitous and Unexpected Results (JSUR).

An important component of scientific discovery is a disciplined examination of research results that contradict or negate extant hypotheses. Indeed the history of science is rife with examples of important discoveries arising from such results. However, there is a distinct lack of a forum in which such results can be presented and discussed in any meaningful way. We believe a forum for and dialogue on serendipitous and unexpected results will provide valuable insight and inform modern research practices (emphasis added).

It's like they created a whole journal just for Dan Everett! My first reaction was to double check that this wasn't coming from The Onion, but it appears to be legit. Jonah Lehrer recently made a similar point (see here) about the value of failure in science. In fact, there are informal forums for this kind of discussion; namely, meetings with advisors and lab meetings (as Lehrer points out). But rarely does this discussion get formalized and published. To pique the imagination of researchers, the journal editors pose a serious series of question templates. Which of the following are relevant to linguistics?

Can you demonstrate that:
  • Technique X fails on problem Y.
  • Hypothesis X can't be proven using method Y.
  • Protocol X performs poorly for task Y.
  • Method X has unexpected fundamental limitations.
  • While investigating X, you discovered Y.
  • Model X can't capture the behavior of phenomenon Y.
  • Failure X is explained by Y.
  • Assumption X doesn't hold in domain Y.
  • Event X shouldn't happen, but it does.
(HT Boing Boing)

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