Excerpts from Robust research: Institutions must do their part for reproducibility
C. Glenn Begley, Alastair M. Buchan & Ulrich Dirnagl
Irreproducible research poses an enormous burden: it delays treatments, wastes patients’ and scientists’ time, and squanders billions of research dollars. It is also widespread. An unpublished 2015 survey by the American Society for Cell Biology found that more than two-thirds of respondents had on at least one occasion been unable to reproduce published results. Biomedical researchers from drug companies have reported that one-quarter or fewer of high-profile papers are reproducible1, 2.
Many parties are addressing the problem. Funding bodies such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have announced training initiatives3 and explicitly instructed grant reviewers to consider whether experimental plans ensure rigour. New methods of data analysis and peer review have been proposed to deflate bias.
Several journals, including Nature and Science, have updated their guidelines and introduced checklists. These ask scientists whether they followed practices such as randomizing, blinding and calculating appropriate sample size. Science has also added statisticians to its panel of reviewing editors. Philanthropic and non-profit organizations have sponsored projects to improve robustness.
Funders’ policies, journal guidelines and widespread soul-searching are necessary. But they are not sufficient.
Conspicuous by their absence from these efforts are the places in which science is done: universities, hospitals, government-supported labs and independent research institutes. This has to change. Institutions must support and reward researchers who do solid — not just flashy — science and hold to account those whose methods are questionable.
The systems needed to promote reproducible research must come from institutions — scientists, funders and journals cannot build them on their own. These kinds of changes will require additional money, infrastructure, personnel and paperwork. The load on institutions and investigators will be real, but so is the burden of irreproducible research. Even if it is accompanied by an apparent decrease in productivity, the resulting increase in research quality will be well worth the costs.
Still, most institutions will not make the necessary moves unless forced. Funding bodies should make GIP a prerequisite for receiving a grant. The concept has gained some traction: last year, Science Foundation Ireland announced plans to conduct external audits on some of the labs that it supports.
There will not be one ideal solution. Faculty members, trainees and administrators will need to come together for honest, difficult discussions to restructure institutions. Neither scientists nor institutions should engage in mere box checking; new practices must restrain sloppiness while interfering only minimally with the many scientists who are behaving well.
Read the full article here: http://www.nature.com/news/robust-research-institutions-must-do-their-part-for-reproducibility-1.18259?WT.mc_id=SFB_NNEWS_1508_RHBox