Scientific reproducibility is hampered by a lack of specificity of the material resources

Sep 05, 2013

A key requirement when performing scientific experiments is the accessibility of material resources, including the reagents or model organisms, needed to address a specific hypothesis. The published scientific literature is a source of this valuable information, but frequently lacks sufficient detail to the extent that researchers are unable to identify material resources used to perform experiments.

A study, published today in PeerJ, demonstrates the magnitude of the problem – a problem that negatively affects the ability of scientists to reproduce and extend reported studies. The study showed that a large number of scientific resources are unidentifiable based on the information reported within the .

"The stories we tell in are not necessarily instructions for ." said Melissa Haendel, Ph.D., an ontologist and assistant professor in the Library and Department of Medical Informatics & Clinical Epidemiology at Oregon Health & Science University and senior author on the study. "This study illuminates how if we aim to use the literature as the scientific basis for reproducibility, then we have to get a lot more specific."

The study, led by Haendel and Nicole Vasilevsky, Ph.D., project manager and biocurator in Oregon Health & Science University's Ontology Development Group, examined nearly 240 articles from more than 80 journals spanning five disciplines: neuroscience, immunology, cell biology, developmental biology and general science. The articles were evaluated to determine if the reported research resources could be uniquely identified based on the information that was provided in each article, its supplemental data, or prior references. Specific criteria were developed to determine if antibodies, cell lines, constructs, model organisms, and knockdown were identifiable. Based on these criteria, Haendel, Vasilevsky and their team of researchers also developed guidelines for reporting of research resources. These guidelines are available online (http://www.force11.org/node/4433) and can be used as a new data standard by authors, reviewers, publishers, and other data contributors to aid reproducibility.

The study showed that just under 50 percent of scientific resources used in previously published articles were unidentifiable, a percentage which varied across resource types and disciplines. The study also found no increased level of identification in journals that had more stringent reporting guidelines.

"We hope that quantifying the problem through this study will highlight to the research community that there is a significant and pressing need to make material resource information more accessible going forward," said Vasilevsky.

Explore further: Bias pervades the scientific reporting of animal studies

More information: Vasilevsky et al. (2013), On the reproducibility of science: unique identification of research resources in the biomedical literature. PeerJ 1:e148; DOI: 10.7717/peerj.148

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New Genetics educational resource promotes active learning

Aug 09, 2012

As upper level undergraduate genetics instructors plan their syllabi for the fall semester, the Genetics Society of America's GENETICS journal offers a new educational resource, articles called "Primers." These articles are de ...

'Spin' in media reports of scientific articles

Sep 11, 2012

Press releases and news stories reporting the results of randomized controlled trials often contain "spin"—specific reporting strategies (intentional or unintentional) emphasizing the beneficial effect of the experimental ...

Bias pervades the scientific reporting of animal studies

Jul 17, 2013

A new study published in the open access journal PLOS Biology suggests that the scientific literature could be compromised by substantial bias in the reporting of animal studies, and may be giving a misleading picture of the ...

Recommended for you

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

8 hours ago

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.