(Quick disclaimer: I've not really been part of this conversation, so if my comments have been rebutted elsewhere please do correct me.)
I'm a little skeptical of whether it's really as simple as "publish your negative results!", at least when it comes to chemistry*. It's not enough to say "we tried these conditions and it didn't work". This isn't going to be too helpful; there are a million reasons why a particular reaction might not work in your hands (look at BlogSyn for a detailed example of this). For such a resource to be useful it has to be thorough: you have to try to pin down why your reaction doesn't work, and that's not a trivial matter.
The journal behind last week's campaign even say as much:
"For negative and null results, it is especially important to ensure that the outcome is a genuine finding generated by a well executed experiment, and not simply the result of poorly conducted work. We have been talking to our Editorial Board about how to try to avoid the publication of the latter type of result and will be addressing this topic and asking for your input in a further post in the next few days."I don't know how it is in the biomedical sciences, but in chemistry I'm not sure it's going to be clear up front why a reaction doesn't work. Ensuring that it is a genuinely negative result will take time, and is likely to be of limited interest to the wider community; understanding why the reaction doesn't work is yet more work, but will be much more useful.
Who is going to take the time and effort to really thoroughly study a failed reaction and figure out why it works except a methodology group that is already studying that chemistry in depth?
To illustrate my point I'll use an example from my own area, self-replicating molecules. In 2008, Vidonne and Philp reported an attempt to make a self-replicating rotaxane. I'm going to stop here to express my sincere admiration at the scale of a project like this. I'm not aware of any other attempts to achieve something like this; it blows my mind a little bit.
This is the kind of detailed work needed to make negative results worthwhile - both to publishers and to other researchers. Anyone can break a reaction, but it takes time and attention to detail to turn that into useful knowledge.
That said, there are lesser steps that can be taken to get useful negative results into the literature without expending so much effort. For example, methodology papers could include tables of substrates or conditions that didn't work in their SI; synthesis papers could (and often do) discuss methods that failed for them.
An interesting alternative is the robustness screen recently proposed by Collins and Glorius. They describe a standardised 'kit' that may allow chemists to quickly get an idea of whether a particular set of reaction conditions is likely to tolerate functional groups and so on. One strength of this idea is that it would require chemists to report negative results: "our conditions tolerate A, B, and C, but are shut down by X, Y, and Z".
To sum up: it's easy to say "publish your negative results!", but in chemistry at least it's not clear that it's that straightforward. To be worth publishing, or worth anything, you have to have an idea why the results are negative, or negative results need to routinely reported alongside positive results.
What do you think negative results could contribute to chemistry? What information would you need for a negative result to be useful to you?
* to clarify: none of my comments are meant to generalise to all of science, or beyond organic chemistry, really. In other fields this may well be more straightforward.
** thanks a big huggy bunch to @PeONor and @craigdc1983 for having a look over this post before it went up.