In amongst all the pressures on us as academics to publish and win grants, it can sometimes be easy to lose sight of why we undertake research – to increase knowledge and hopefully improve diagnosis and treatment of patients in the future. However, in order to contribute positively towards these aims, we don’t only need to publish, we need to publish data that is correct, and publish data whether it fits our hypothesis or not.

There is a growing awareness in the scientific community of issues such as selective reporting of clinical trials1 and irreproducibility of biomedical research2, which result in wasted time and money and possibly contribute to a negative impact on patient care when patients and doctors don’t have the full information about the benefits and risks of treatments.

Academic journals too are recognising the problem. Several, such as Nature and Science, have updated their guidelines and introduced checklists asking scientists whether they followed practices such as randomizing, blinding and calculating appropriate sample size.

We all have obligations as researchers. As part of my role as Associate Dean for Research in the Faculty I am a member of the University’s Research Integrity Group. Over the last six months we have been updating and renewing the University’s Research Integrity Policy which outlines the obligations we have as members of the University. Universities UK has published a Concordat for Research Integrity which the University has adopted and will comply with. As a researcher you should be familiar with the requirements of the Concordat and ensure that your conduct and research comply with these to the highest standards.

As a Faculty we will need to look over the next year how we better provide training around research integrity and improving research reproducibility for our early career researchers. For example, training the importance of validating cell lines3 and antibodies4 that are major sources of irreproducibility. The Faculty Leadership Team has also recommended that the University sign up to the All Trials Initiative (www.alltrials.net) calling for all past and present clinical trials to be registered and their full methods and summary results reported.

As researchers we all need to reflect on how influences in our environment such as pressure to publish, selective reporting, poor use of statistics and difficult protocols can all contribute to work that is not sound and unlikely to be reproduced2. In reality, we just need to remind ourselves every now and again why we do research.

John

1.Powell-Smith A and Goldacre B. The TrialsTracker: Automated ongoing monitoring of failure to share clinical trial results by all major companies and research institutions [version 1; referees: awaiting peer review]. F1000Research 2016;5:2629. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.10010.1

2.Begley CG et al. Robust research: Institutions must do their part for reproducibility. Nature 2016;525(7567):25-7. doi: 10.1038/525025a

3.Baker M. Reproducibility: Respect your cells! Nature 2016;537:433–35 doi:10.1038/537433a

4.Baker M. Reproducibility crisis: Blame it on the antibodies. Nature. 2015;521(7552):274-6. doi: 10.1038/521274a

Reproducibility and Research Integrity

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