The topics of scientific rigor and data reproducibility have been increasingly covered in the scientific and mainstream media, and are being addressed by publishers, professional organizations, and funding agencies, including NIH. This webinar – the first in a series titled Training Modules to Enhance Data Reproducibility (TMEDR) – will address topics of scientific rigor as they pertain to pre-clinical neuroscience research.
R is a natural fit for a reproducibility project like this: as a scripting language, the R script itself provides a reproducible documentation of every step of the process. (Revolution R Open, Microsoft's enhanced R distribution, additionally includes features to facilitate reproducibility when using R packages.) The R script used for the psychology replication project describes and executes the process for checking the results of the papers.
The new Meta-Research Section in PLOS Biology is not the only example of how PLOS strives to improve the scientific endeavor through innovative communication efforts. PLOS has always recognized that publication of studies that reproduce published work or null results, either confirming or refuting the original result, is essential for progress in research. In fact, the largest journal at PLOS, PLOS ONE, is one of only a handful of publications that actively encourage these types of submissions with The Missing Pieces Collection.
While experiments may be published even in a top scientific journal, other researchers who attempt to repeat the same experiments under the same conditions often find contradicting results. As a measure of this, a recent study attempted to reproduce psychology publications and successfully replicated only 39 out of 100 studies. It turns out that excluding sex in experimental design may have contributed to reproducibility issues. Furthermore, sex can also have a biological impact on our scientific understanding and influence how well early biological studies translate into advances in human medicine.
Experimental results that don’t hold up to replication have caused consternation among scientists for years, especially in the life and social sciences (SN: 1/24/15, p. 20). In 2015 several research groups examining the issue reported on the magnitude of the irreproducibility problem. The news was not good.
The finding that acute and chronic manipulations of the same neural circuit can produce different behavioural outcomes poses new questions about how best to analyse these circuits.