Tackling the 'credibility crisis' in science

January 4, 2016

Widespread failure to reproduce research results has triggered a crisis of confidence in research findings, eroding public trust in scientific methodology. In response, PLOS Biology is launching on January 4th, 2016, a new Meta-Research Section devoted to research on research.

Billions of dollars are wasted every year on research that cannot be reproduced. In an editorial announcing the launch of this new section, Stavroula Kousta and colleagues note: "With our new section on data-driven meta-research, we aim to highlight that research about research is an important area of science. By creating a prominent forum in this field, PLOS Biology will contribute to ongoing efforts to improve research standards in the biological sciences and beyond."

The launch of the meta-research section is marked with the publication of two articles examining issues surrounding study transparency and reporting. Shareen Iqbal at Emory University, John Ioannidis from the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS) and colleagues evaluate reproducibility and transparency practices across the biomedical sciences in a sample of articles published between 2000 and 2014. They found very poor reproducibility and transparency standards across the board. Specifically, the vast majority of studies did not share their data, did not provide protocols, claimed to report novel findings rather than replications, and did not mention funding or conflicts of interest.

In a complementary article focusing on research using mice and rats as subjects, Constance Holman at Charité Universitätsmedizin, Ulrich Dirnagl and colleagues examined hundreds of published stroke and cancer research experiments. They found that the majority of studies didn't contain sufficient information to indicate how many animals were used. What's more, many papers also contained animals that seemingly "vanished" over the course of a study, without explanation. The authors used a computer model to simulate the effects of "vanishing" animals on the validity of the experiments. They found that the more animals lost or removed, the shakier or more biased the experimental conclusions.

The launch of the new section is accompanied by a new collection of meta-research articles that highlight key issues hindering the scientific effort and offer ways to improve research practices.

Explore further: Bias pervades the scientific reporting of animal studies

More information: Kousta S, Ferguson C, Ganley E (2016) Meta-Research: Broadening the Scope of PLOS Biology. PLoS Biol 14(1): e1002334. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002334

Related Stories

Bias pervades the scientific reporting of animal studies

July 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 ...

Meta-analysis confirms miR-21 expression, laryngeal CA link

December 22, 2015

(HealthDay)—Expression of miR-21 is associated with laryngeal carcinoma, with high expression related to increased laryngeal cancer risk, according to a meta-analysis published online Dec. 12 in the Journal of Evidence-Based ...

Simple errors limit scientific scrutiny

November 11, 2015

Researchers have found more than half of the public datasets provided with scientific papers are incomplete, which prevents reproducibility tests and follow-up studies.

Recommended for you

Ancient parrot fossil found in Siberia

October 26, 2016

(Phys.org)—A Russian paleontologist has discovered a parrot fossil uncovered in Siberia several years ago—the first evidence of parrots living in Asia. In his paper published in Biology Letters, Nikita Zelenkov describes ...

Ancient burials suggestive of blood feuds

October 24, 2016

There is significant variation in how different cultures over time have dealt with the dead. Yet, at a very basic level, funerals in the Sonoran Desert thousands of years ago were similar to what they are today. Bodies of ...

Meet Savannasaurus, Australia's newest titanosaur

October 21, 2016

The outback region around Winton in central Queensland is arguably Australia's ground zero for giant dinosaur fossils. Here, graziers occasionally stumble across petrified bones on their paddocks, amid the stubbly grass and ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.