The lack of reproducibility of preclinical experimentation has implications for sustaining trust in and ensuring the viability and funding of the academic research enterprise. Here I identify problematic behaviors and practices and suggest solutions to enhance reproducibility in translational research.
Numerous variables can torpedo attempts to replicate cell experiments, from the batch of serum to the shape of growth plates. But there are ways to ensure reliability.
Many scientists worry over the reproducibility of wet-lab experiments, but data scientist Victoria Stodden's focus is on how to validate computational research: analyses that can involve thousands of lines of code and complex data sets. Beginning this month, Stodden — who works at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign — becomes one of three ‘reproducibility editors’ appointed to look over code and data sets submitted by authors to the Applications and Case Studies (ACS) section of the Journal of the American Statistical Association (JASA). Other journals including Nature have established guidelines for accommodating data requests after publication, but they rarely consider the availability of code and data during the review of a manuscript. JASA ACS will now insist that — with a few exceptions for privacy — authors submit this information as a condition of publication.
To make replication studies more useful, researchers must make more of them, funders must encourage them and journals must publish them.No scientist wants to be the first to try to replicate another’s promising study: much better to know what happened when others tried it. Long before replication or reproducibility became major talking points, scientists had strategies to get the word out. Gossip was one. Researchers would compare notes at conferences, and a patchy network would be warned about whether a study was worth building on. Or a vague comment might be buried in a related publication. Tell-tale sentences would start "In our hands", "It is unclear why our results differed …" or "Interestingly, our results did not …".
Next month Las Vegas will host the Final Event of the DARPA Cyber grand Challenge as an all-computer cyber-defence Capture the Flag tournament. From an initial field of over 100 applicant seven teams will compete for the $3.5 million prize pool. Reproducibility is a key aspect of a sound scientific design. While perfect system state replay is impossible without a full system event recorder, DECREE has been designed to allow high determinism and reproducibility given a record of software and inputs. This reproducibility property has been built into DECREE from kernel modifications up through the entire platform stack.
When functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was introduced in the late 1990s, it drew raves for its ability to show brain activity—and concerns that it might be the modern equivalent of phrenology. Now, that debate could spring to life again with revelations that the popular imaging technology could have been flawed for years. As Kate Lunau writes for Motherboard, new research suggests that software used to analyze fMRI results could invalidate up to 40,000 brain activity studies.