The Merits of Failure

June 2, 2006
Pharmaceutical Technology, Pharmaceutical Technology-06-02-2006, Volume 30, Issue 6

If there's one word I (and probably most people) have come to fear more than all others, it's "failure." We've been conditioned since grade school that failure is shameful and punishment worthy. Maybe even something we should tuck away in our knapsack, sneak past Mom and Dad, tear into little pieces, and hide under the carpet.

If there's one word I (and probably most people) have come to fear more than all others, it's "failure." We've been conditioned since grade school that failure is shameful and punishment worthy. Maybe even something we should tuck away in our knapsack, sneak past Mom and Dad, tear into little pieces, and hide under the carpet.

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner

As adults, we're often given to similar behavior. If an experiment doesn't work as well as expected, it's unlikely we'll sprint to our computers, type up the results, and send it out to be published. Call it pride or competitiveness if you will, but it's much more comfortable to share information about enhancing a drug's properties, accelerating validation time, or cutting production costs.

Of course, positive results can provide industry invaluable information, but failed experiments can be healthy, too—by showing conclusively a given technique isn't productive in some applications, for example.Yes it's cliché, but we can only learn from our mistakes if we acknowledge them. Negative results, as frustrating as they may be, should be shared with others and added to our bank of literature. I will go so far as to say that if we don't publish studies with failed results, our literature thereby is unbalanced and biased.

Now, that's not to say that absolutely all negative results are fruitful. Like all good published research, data must be derived from logical, well-designed, methods that are executed by conscientious, well-trained researchers. Sufficient evidence must be given to support any claims. If they meet the requirements, negative studies merit as much thought and discussion as the positive.

Kaylynn Chiarello-Ebner is the managing editor of Pharmaceutical Technology, kchiarello@advanstar.com