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Survey highlights challenges to reproducible science for translational researchers


St. Louis, MO Sigma-AldrichCorporation has issued its second annual ‘State of Translational Research Survey Report’, addressing challenges to the reproducibility of research within the academic translational research community.

The report, based on a survey conducted in concert with the Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Academic Drug Discovery Consortium (ADDC), sheds light on practices that compromise the reproducibility of published research, underlines the translational research community’s desire for experimental standards, and suggests multi-faceted strategies for improving the reproducibility of translational science.

“The issue of irreproducibility of published studies is now widely acknowledged by the research community as a challenge to effective translational research as it could delay the creation of new treatments for patients and compromise the public’s trust and confidence in science,” said Amanda Halford, vice president, academic research at Sigma-Aldrich. “Sigma-Aldrich is committed to helping the research community overcome this complex issue.”

The Sigma-Aldrich survey found 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 & CEO of Science Exchange and co-director of the Reproducibility Initiative.

Survey results indicate 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., MAS, co-founder and president of ADDC.

“Solving the problem of irreproducibility will not happen overnight. Progress in resolving this issue will require a concerted effort from the stakeholder community including researchers, universities, funding agencies, publishers and industry. We find this to be a consistent sentiment amongst the audience with whom we have shared this data,” said Sean Muthian, Ph.D., director of strategic marketing and collaborations at Sigma-Aldrich.

The 2014 State of Translational Research Survey Report chronicles additional viewpoints and practices within the academic translational research community, such as scientific journals’ role in ensuring reproducibility, data or protocol documentation and study retractions. The Sigma-Aldrich report was first presented first at the ADDC’s “Addressing Irreproducibility in Target Validation” Conference on October 23 at the Novartis Institute of Biomedical Research in Cambridge, MA.

To receive a copy of the State of Translational Research 2014 Survey Report register and download the report here.