Research never fails! JUnQ discusses hidden treasures

Doctoral students of the Graduate School of Excellence "Materials Science in Mainz" publish Journal of Unsolved Questions


The first edition of the Journal of Unsolved Questions (JUnQ) was published on January 1, 2011. This project is unique worldwide and was launched by doctoral students of the Graduate School "Materials Science in Mainz" at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) as part of a think tank innovation laboratory. Currently, researchers from Mainz, Prague, and Tübingen are collaborating in the editorial office.

The Journal of Unsolved Questions sets its focus on the type of research projects for which research magazines traditionally have no platform, i.e. those projects which did not lead to clear results in the end. Contrary to the public view, most research efforts fail or lead to ambiguous results, and only the "breakthroughs" ever stand a chance of being published. Nevertheless, "failed" research provides useful and valuable information for fellow scientists. In publishing 'negative' results, JUnQ aims to establish this 'null'-result research as an important milestone in gaining research knowledge, thus contributing towards a change in handling scientific non-knowledge.

In accordance with good scientific practice, the articles submitted are subjected to a peer review process, in which researchers in the same field - frequently direct competitors of the authors - assess whether the contribution submitted meets the requirements for scholarly standard and good scientific practice. In addition to these articles, JUnQ publishes brief essays about unsolved scientific questions ("Open Questions") - because in research questions are often more important than their answers. "Unsolved questions are the driving force behind science, which is why it is more than fitting that a scientific journal specializes in them," states Jürgen Gauss, Professor for Theoretical Chemistry at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and winner of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize in 2005.

Furthermore, JUnQ constitutes a platform to reflect about day-to-day life in research, looking at science from a meta-perspective. During the summer term of 2011, JUnQ will be joining forces with the MAINZ Graduate School of Excellence in organizing a lecture series on the subject of "Publish or Perish ...? The effect of current publication practices on science". "Frequent publications attract undergraduates and doctoral candidates, help to obtain continuous financing and are simply essential if you want to get ahead in your scientific career," is the opinion of the organizers at MAINZ Graduate School. According to them, this results in scientists coming under constant pressure to publish new work, forcing them to spend much of their time writing scientific articles. The organizers of the JUnQ lecture series are now beginning to question whether this is in keeping with the principles of research and are even starting to wonder about the fundamental assumptions that lie at the heart of the modern natural sciences. The young critical researchers at MAINZ intend to use the lecture series and their Journal of Unsolved Questions in order to informally raise issues about the publication practices currently prevailing in the natural sciences and to determine whether they have any influence on actual research work.

The first edition of JUnQ contains two articles and four open questions on a wide variety of scientific topics. The next edition of the Journal of Unsolved Questions will appear on July 1, 2011. Articles and open questions can be submitted via .