A new report from Sigma-Aldrich exposes practices that compromise the reproducibility of published research and suggests strategies for improving reproducibility.

The second annual State of Translational Research Survey Report is based on a survey commissioned by Sigma-Adrich and the Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) as well as the Academic Drug Discovery Consortium (ADDC).

Among its findings, the survey revealed that only 22% of respondents had complete success in the last year reproducing other labs' published work. Respondents cited the primary suspected causes of experimental irreproducibility to be poor controls, the rush to publish, and insufficient samples sizes. Half of respondents also blamed the reproducing lab's failure to understand or follow experimental protocols.

“The causes of irreproducibility are complex and currently incompletely understood. Addressing this issue will require multiple stakeholders to work together to identify and implement best practices for improving reproducibility, particularly in the preclinical research space. Potential strategies include validation and standardization of research reagents and replication of key experimental results that will form the basis of drug development programs” said Elizabeth Iorns, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Science Exchange and co-director of the Reproducibility Initiative.

One of the take-away points from the survey was that several simple quality control practices could be performed more consistently. These practices include testing for mycoplasma, validating reagents for purity and identity, and screening for misidentified cell lines.

“We need to have more of those difficult, but important, conversations about restructuring the research enterprise at all levels, from the research conduct of an individual scientist to the edicts, funding, and grant requirements from the NIH and other organizations worldwide. Then we must actually put in place the necessary resources to accommodate reform,” said Barbara Slusher, Ph.D., co-founder and president of ADDC.

A copy of the State of Translational Research 2014 Survey Report is available here

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