The QUEST 1,000 € NULL results and Replication study Award

Publish your NULL results – Fight the negative publication bias!

Publish your Replication Study – Fight the replication crises!

Traditionally there is a strong bias against results that did not confirm or support the hypothesis researchers set out to test. Such results are called NULL results (as the Null hypothesis was not rejected), and rarely get published (‘file drawer phenomenon’) and are therefore lost to the scientific community. NULL results of well performed studies are important for many reasons. Due to the current bias towards ‘positive results’ aggregation of the available literature in systematic reviews overestimate the efficacy of drugs or effect sizes of biological phenomena. Knowing about ‘blind alleys’ and ‘dead ends’ may prevent others from repeating experiments unnecessarily. And surprising to many, NULL results are more informative than ‘positive’ results. Their positive and negative predictive values are much higher than those of results that support our hypotheses (for details see here, and here). 

Until a decade ago or so it was almost impossible to publish NULL results, unless they refuted a spectacular claim. Fortunately, this has changed, and numerous journals now publish results of sound studies regardless of their outcome (negative, inconclusive), such as F1000Res, PeerJ, PlosONE, J Neg Res Biomed, and many more. Incidentally, all these journals publish Open Access (see also our Open Access Publication Fund).

Reproducibility is fundamental to scientific Progress (see also Statement of the German Research Foundation, only in German). Unfortunately, the replication of studies carries little prestige in academic research. Only recently have systematic replication studies demonstrated that current biomedicine has a serious replication problem, which led to the declaration of a reproducibility crisis. We need more systematic replication efforts of high quality, regardless of their outcome.

QUEST is giving away 15 awards of 1,000 € to first/last/corresponding authors (BIH, MDC or Charité affiliation) of preclinical or clinical research papers in which the main result is a NULL or ‘negative’ or in which the replication of own results or the results of others is attempted. Papers must have been published 2016 onwards.

The award (travel costs or consumables) will be administered through MDC or Charité and can be used until the end of 2018. Awards are given on an ongoing basis. Awardees will be featured on the QUEST web pages.

To claim your award, send an email with a short statement and the publication to

Publications of authors (independent of the author´s position) which are also QUEST employees cannot be considered.

Each researcher may apply to every call only once. 


NULL results and Replication study Award 

  1. The publication "Analysis of Lymphocytic DNA Damage in Early Multiple Sclerosis by Automated Gamma-H2AX and 53BP1 Foci Detection: A Case Control Study" receives a QUEST NULL results Award for reporting null results as major findings in a clinical case-control study. The article was published 2016 in PloS One (DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147968). Applicant: Dr. Ludwig Rasche, Department of Neurology and NeuroCure Clinical Research Center, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

  2. The publication "Individual Alpha Frequency Relates to the Sound-Induced Flash Illusion" receives a QUEST Replication Study award. The study successfully reproduces and extends the findings of a 2015 published study. The replication of the previous results increases the robustness of observations that describe an important neuronal mechanism. The article was published 2017 in Multisensory Research (DOI: 10.1163/22134808-00002572). Applicant: Dr. Julian Keil, Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie der Charité im St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus Berlin.

  3. The publication "Normal volumes and microstructural integrity of deep gray matter structures in AQP41 NMOSD", a case-control study, receives a QUEST NULL results award. Against the background of conflicting previous findings, this article reports no involvement of deep gray matter in patients with NMOSD, an autoimmune CNS condition. The article was published 2016 in Neurology: Neuroimmunology & Neuroinflammation (DOI: 10.1212/NXI.0000000000000229). Applicant: Dr. Carsten Finke, Klinik für Neurologie, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

  4. The publication "Investigation of hippocampal synaptic transmission and plasticity in mice deficient in the actinbinding protein Drebrin" - a preclinical, electrophysiological study in mice - receives a QUEST NULL results award. The study reports no differences between models as major findings. The results seem to contradict previous findings from other in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo experiments, as the authors point out. The article was published 2017 in Science Reports (DOI: 10.1038/srep42652). Applicant: Prof. Britta Eickholt, Institute of Biochemistry and NeuroCure-Cluster of Excellence, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

  5. The publication "Hypertension and Risk of Post-Operative Cognitive Dysfunction (POCD): A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis" receives a QUEST NULL results award. Based on a systematic data synthesis of the existing literature, the publication reports no higher risk for post-operative cognitive dysfuntion in patients with hypertension compared to patients without. The article was published 2017 in Clinical Practice & Epidemiology in Mental Health (DOI: 10.2174/1745017901713010027). Applicant: Dr. Insa Feinkohl, Molecular Epidemiology Group, Max-Delbrueck-Centrum for Molecular Medicin (MDC) in the Helmholtz Association.

  6. The publication "S1P receptor antagonists fingolimod and siponimod do not improve the outcome of experimental autoimmune myasthenia gravis mice after disease onset" receives a NULL award. The authors showed that the observation of an effect of an active agent on the onset of an autoimmune disease, did not translate to the treatment of the disease. While previous findings from preclinical studies indicated that sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) antagonists prevent the onset of autoimmune myasthenia gravis in mice, this publication, however, reports no effect on the course of the disease in a similar animal model. The article was published 2017 in the European Journal of Immunology (DOI:10.1002/eji.201747187). Applicant: Andreas Pelz, Department of Experimental Neurology and Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

  7. The publication "Inflammatory-linked changes in CpG island methylation of three opioid peptide genes in a rat model for pain" receives a NULL award. Earlier studies indicated an upregulation of opiod genes in the context of peripheral inflammation. The authors report that a transcriptional regulation via methylation doesn`t seem to be a key regulator of opioid gene activation in immune cells during peripheral tissue inflammation in a rat model. The article was published 2018 in PLOS ONE (DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0191698). Applicant: Prof. Christoph Stein, Klinik für Anästhesiologie und operative Intensivmedizin, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

  8. The publication "Oral administration of a novel lipophilic PPAR δ agonist is not neuroprotective after rodent cerebral ischemia" receives a NULL award. In contradiction to previously published work on the role of PPARδ agonists in models of cerebral ischemia, the authors found no biologically relevant neuroprotective effect of a treatment with a PPARδ agonist. The publication contributes to the overall evaluation of the efficacy of PPARδ agonists as a neuroprotective therapy of ischemic stroke. The article was published 2018 in the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism (DOI: 10.1177/0271678X17743876). Applicant: Dr. Samuel Knauss, Department of Experimental Neurology, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

  9. The publication "The dexamethasone corticotropin releasing hormone test in healthy and depressed women with and without childhood adversity" receives a NULL award. In this controlled clinical study, the authors investigated the effects of childhood adverse events and depression on HPA axis activity. Contrasting previous findings, they did not find evidence supporting the assumption of distinct neuroendicrine endophenotypes in patients with major depressive disorder with and without childhood adverse experiences compared to healthy controls. The publication challenges previous assumptions and emphasizes the importance of further systematic disentanglement of factors that potentially contribute to altered HPA axis function. The article was published 2018 in Psychoneuroendocrinology (DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.10.016). Applicant: Prof. Katja Wingenfeld, Klinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Campus Benjamin Franklin, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin.

  10. The publication "A critical reexamination of doing arithmetic nonconsciously" receives a Replication Study award. By reanalyzing an already published data set, the authors were able to show that previous claims about the ability to solve equations without consciously perceiving them, are not fully supported. The publication emphasizes the importance of cumulative research strategies to provide evidence that allows valid and strong conclusions. The article was published 2017 in Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (DOI: 10.3758/s13423-017-1292-x). Applicant: PD Dr. Guido Hesselmann, Visual Perception Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry & Psychotherapy, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Charité Campus Mitte.

  11. The publication "Octreotide Does Not Inhibit Proliferation in Five Neuroendocrine Tumor Cell Lines" receives a NULL award. The authors show that five established neuroendocrine tumor (NET) cell line models did not express tumor-like somatostatin receptors (SSTR) and no impact of somatostatin analogs (SSA) treatment alone was found. These results The octreotide resistance in examined cell line models underscores the importance of more physiologic tumor model systems. The article was published 2018 in Frontiers in Endocrinology (DOI: 10.3389/fendo.2018.00146). Applicant: Dr. Carsten Grötzinger, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin Med. Kl. m.S. Hepatologie und Gastroenterologie. 

  12. The publication "Fingolimod therapy is not effective in a mouse model of spontaneous autoimmune peripheral polyneuropathy" receives a NULL award. This preclinical study showed that therapy of autoimmune polyneuropathy with fingolimod did not show any improvements regarding the disease progression or motor deficits compared to a vehicle treatment. This publication corroborates findings from a recent study in chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy patients. The article was published 2018 in Scientific Reports (DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-23949-4). Applicant: Dr. med. Petra Hühnchen, Klinik und Hochschulambulanz für Neurologie, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin.