BioPolicy Summit Explores Solutions to Reproducibility Concerns

By | February 18, 2016

On February 9, the Global Biological Standards Institute (GBSI) hosted its second BioPolicy Summit, Research Reproducibility: Innovative Solutions to Drive Quality. The summit convened experts in the scientific community to explore ways to resolve ongoing concerns about the reproducibility of basic biomedical research.

Keynote speaker Judith Kimble, PhD, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, began the event by describing recent reports that raised concerns about the reproducibility and translatability of research. Noting that the inability to reproduce a research finding could result from several factors, including poor experimental design, mislabeled reagents, or insufficient reporting of methods, Dr. Kimble stated that problems with reproducibility bear hidden costs in terms of delayed or lost scientific opportunities and declining public confidence in the research enterprise. Therefore, Dr. Kimble noted it is critical that all stakeholders in the biomedical research enterprise work together to implement solutions to improve the reproducibility, transparency, and translatability of basic biological discoveries.

The keynote presentation was followed by a panel discussion moderated by Richard Harris, science correspondent for NPR news. Panelists included Arturo Casadevall, MD, PhD (Johns Hopkins University), Amy Herr, PhD (University of California-Berkeley), Josh LaBaer, MD, PhD (Arizona State University), Brian Nosek, PhD (University of Virginia), and Timothy Simcoe, PhD (Boston University and National Bureau of Economic Research). Much of the discussion focused on ways to alleviate the negative effects of the current hyper-competitive research environment, in which the pressures to procure federal funding and publish research findings in “high impact” journals may result in the premature sharing of research results. Panelists agreed that many of the common issues identified as reducing the reproducibility of research can easily be addressed through more stringent training of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in experimental design, analytical methods, and critical review. Similarly, they said the research community needs to place value on efforts intended to enhance reproducibility and transparency.

To encourage this latter point, GBSI introduced Reproducibility2020, an action plan intended to improve awareness of reagent authentication, enhance protocol and data sharing, and enrich the training of scientists.