Lessons Learned

What is a “lesson learned” (i.e., negative results) document?

Research inherently involves failure, but without documentation of negative results, investigators are doomed to repeat prior mistakes. The “Lessons Learned” category will address this gap in the literature in a topic-based way - e.g., “Lessons Learned in Potential of Mean Force Computation.” Each article should be broadly useful, with the potential to aid in the planning of a significant number of studies. Thus, results obtained in multiple systems and different conditions are desirable. Authors will be encouraged to add to an existing topic when possible and appropriate (and receive formal authorship credit, as dicsussed elsewhere).

Manuscript preparation instructions

Quite simply, a “Lessons Learned” manuscript is a regular scientific article and hence should be prepared with the standard high level of care and documentation. The article should contain the usual sections: Introduction, including background, motivation and a brief discussion of related work; Methods/Theory, with all information required for a reader to reproduce the results, including software version numbers and links to any in-house files or scripts; Results; Discussion, highlighting the lessons learned and tips for avoiding future mistakes; and Conclusions. Data analysis should conform to best practices.

Additional critera considered in the review of lessons learned articles

Reviewers will consider the following factors in reviewing “lessons learned” document.

  • Is the motivation for the approach clearly described and reasonable given existing literature?
  • Are the “lessons” provided likely to be of value to a significant number of researchers, based on demonstrated broad applicability?
  • Is the procedure used fully described (and derived mathematically if appropriate) to enable a reader to reproduce the results?
  • Are any needed supported files provided?
  • Has data analysis been performed in conformance with best practices?

Revision schedule for lessons learned documents

  • Once published, unless subsequently there are recognized flaws with or important updates to an already-published negative-result discussion, such article or article section may not require updating.
  • However, for new authors wishing to add to an existing topic-appropriate “Lessons Learned” article, the new authors should work with authors of the existing article, in consultation with editors as needed.