Next Steps In Reproducibility

Damian Pattinson and Virginia Barbour | PLOS | November 13, 2014

In last week’s Nature and Science, the outcome of a meeting convened by NIH, Nature, and Science to discuss the issue of lack of reproducibility in the basic science research literature was published. This meeting, which brought together representatives from publishers (including PLOS), and many representatives from the NIH and other funders, produced a series of principles, Proposed Principles and Guidelines for Reporting Preclinical Research, which were endorsed by a large and diverse group of publishers, associations, and societies including ourselves. The main principles are as follows:

  • Rigorous statistical analysis
  • Transparency in reporting
  • Data and material sharing
  • Consideration of refutations
  • Consider establishing best practice guidelines for image based data and descriptions of biological data.

Everyone who works in research, as scientist, editor or funder knows that trust is a critical component of having confidence in scientific advances. It would be fair to say that until quite recently it was accepted that the somewhat unstructured narrative style of journal articles with no or little associated data along with few other accepted standard practices was considered sufficient reporting. However, both an increasing number of high profile articles which were found to be unreliable, together with a more general unease, for example around a lack of availability of data, has led journals to conclude that it is now imperative to be much more specific about what an article needs to contain in order for it to be reproducible...