Lab Failures Turn to Gold in Search for New Materials

“Learn from your mistakes.” It’s a familiar adage but people still tend to highlight their successes and sweep their failures under the rug, as a professor at Princeton University pointed out last week when he published his “CV of Failures” (pdf), which has since gone viral. Now, in a study published this week in Nature, a team of researchers at Haverford College in Pennsylvania have taken this idea to the next level—by applying it to the scientific community. (Scientific American is part of Springer Nature.) Even though most experiments fail, it is only the successes that are reported in scientific literature and discussed among experts. The vast majority of the data is discarded, left to collect dust in forgotten laboratory notebooks or never written down at all, making it effectively…


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