We — a surgeon, a research nurse and a synthetic chemist — looked beyond science to discover how people steeped in artistic skills might help to close this 'haptic gap', the deficit in skills of touch and object manipulation. We have found that craftspeople and performers can work fruitfully alongside scientists to address some of the challenges. We have also discovered striking similarities between the observational skills of an entomologist and an analytical chemist; the dexterity of a jeweller and a microsurgeon; the bodily awareness of a dancer and a space scientist; and the creative skills of a scientific glassblower, a reconstructive surgeon, a potter and a chef.
A challenge in modern research is the common inability to repeat novel findings published in even the most “impact-heavy” journals. In the great majority of instances, this may simply be due to a failure of the published manuscripts to include—and the publisher to require— comprehensive information on experimental design, methods, reagents, or the in vitro and in vivo systems under study. Failure to accurately reproduce all environmental influences on an experiment, particularly those using animals, also contributes to inability to repeat novel findings. The most common reason for failures of reproducibility may well bein the rigor and transparency with which methodology is described by authors. Another reason may be the reluctance by more established investigators to break with traditional methods of data presentation. However, one size does not fit all when it comes to data presentation, particularly because of the wide variety of data formats presented in individual disciplines represented by journals. Thus, some flexibility needs to be allowed. The American Physiological Society (APS) has made available guidelines for transparent reporting that it recommends all authors follow(https://www.physiology.org/author-info.promoting-transparent-reporting) (https://www.physiology.org/author-info.experimental-details-to-report). These are just some of the efforts being made to facilitate the communication of discovery in a transparent manner, which complement what has been a strength of the discipline for many years—the ability of the scientists and scientific literature to self-correct (8).
It is important for research users to know how likely it is that reported research findings are true. The Social Science Replication Project finds that, in highly powered experiments, only 13 of 21 high-profile reports could be replicated. Investigating the factors that contribute to reliable results offers new opportunities for the social sciences.
If the results in a published study can’t be replicated in subsequent experiments, how can you trust what you read in scientific journals? One international group of researchers is well aware of this reproducibility crisis, and has been striving to hold scientists accountable. For their most recent test, they attempted to reproduce 21 studies from two of the top scientific journals, Science and Nature, that were published between 2010 and 2015. Only 13 of the reproductions produced the same results as the original study.
In January, Bruce Beutler, an immunologist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, emailed Science editor-in-chief Jeremy Berg to report that attempts to replicate the findings in "MAVS, cGAS, and endogenous retroviruses in T-independent B cell responses" had weakened his confidence in original results. The paper had found that virus-like elements in the human genome play an important role in the immune system’s response to pathogens. Although Beutler and several co-authors requested retraction right off the bat, the journal discovered that two co-authors disagreed, which Berg told us drew out the retraction process. In an attempt to resolve the situation, the journal waited for Beutler’s lab to perform another replication attempt. Those findings were inconclusive and the dissenting authors continued to push back against retraction.
In order for research methods to be consistent, accessible and reproducible, we need universal, widely understood standards for research that all scientists adhere to. NPL has been responsible for maintaining fundamental standards and units for more than 100 years and is now engaged in pioneering work to create a set of “gold standards” for all scientific methodologies, materials, analyses and protocols, based on exhaustive testing at a large number of laboratories, in tandem with both industry and national and international standardisation organisations.