The Reproducibility Crisis: How Can We Help Ensure the Future of Reliable Research?

Medical scientists strive constantly to make breakthroughs that will improve human health. But what happens when researchers at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere produce promising results once and are unable to achieve those same results again in experiments? After all, replication of conditions is a cornerstone of all scientific research.

According to Stuart Ray, vice chair for data integrity and analytics for the Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine, such situations are happening more and more.

In fact, retractions of published science are growing globally—the byproduct of a “reproducibility crisis” that has, at times, strained public trust in research. In 2015, for example, some 720 papers in the PubMed database of biomedical literature were disconfirmed. That’s up to 10 times more than what took place just 11 years ago.

This often meant significant losses in time and funding, and that therapies that may have come from the research were either shelved or significantly delayed. It also brought some embarrassment to the global research community.

Here at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which produces more than 5,000 research papers a year, we’ve identified the following initiatives to help address the problem:

  • A more robust education program for investigators
  • Recommendations for a secure system of storing and sharing primary data
  • Training researchers in rules and best practices through research integrity colloquia, online courses and department meetings devoted to research conduct
  • Development of an online education series with topics including how to design an experiment and how to analyze large data sets.

To learn more about the reproducibility crisis and Johns Hopkins efforts to quell its effects, please read this recent article in Johns Hopkins’ Dome.

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