Haruko Obokata, John Ioannidis, Joshua Cherry, Joshua L. Cherry, KNAW, Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences, Reproducibility crisis, Scientific corruption, Scientific Crisis, Scientific Misconduct, Scientific Reproducibility, Scientific Research, STAP fraud, US NAS, US National Academy of Sciences

How NOT to handle the reproducibility crisis in science

Contributed by Dr. Ariel Fernandez Stigliano

Virtually everybody recognizes that science is facing a reproducibility crisis. Whenever a result elicits attention, be it because it is published in a high-impact journal, or better still because it is important, there is a high likelihood that others will attempt to reproduce it. They often fail, disturbingly often. Fortunately, this time around, the science establishment appears to be better prepared to handle the crisis and not let journalists and outsiders, especially the angry mob of Retraction Watch(ers), run the agenda for them. Thus, the US National Academy of Sciences has appointed a panel to assess the situation, while the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of the Netherlands (KNAW) has already issued a report and made a pronouncement.

KNAW

Logo for the Royal Academy of Sciences of the Netherlands

In my modest opinion, the KNAW report could not be crasser. It proposes that considerable expenditures (between 5 and 10% of research funding) be destined to reproduce published scientific results.

The key question here is: who on earth is going to get motivated to conduct non-original research?  In today’s reality, the only valid motivation I can think of would be that the result under scrutiny is of fundamental value to the researcher and at the same time useful to further his or her research agenda. That is why the alleged STAP fabrication of Haruko Obokata and the late Yoshiki Sasai seemed so colossally stupid in retrospect: The result appeared to be so simple and so important that there surely would be legions of stem-cell researchers eager to reproduce it. How could Obokata get blindfolded by her own ambition in this way? The story had all the elements of a greek tragedy.

Haruko Obokata

Haruko Obokata as the STAP tragedy began to unfold.

There are of course a few people, like Joshua L. Cherry, who tend to obsessively invest in other researcher’s downfall (see Cherry’s frantic exchange with Prof. John Ioannidis), who would be also motivated to get involved in doing non-original research, but that would be for entirely the wrong reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

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AAAS, Blog, Corruption, Data Falsification, Due process, Internet crank, Marcia McNutt, Mass hysteria, Open research, Post publication peer review, Research Integrity, Retraction Watch, Science, Science blogs, Science Magazine, Science Transparency, Scientific Crisis, Scientific Reproducibility, Scientific Research, Transparency and Openness

TOP: How Science magazine plans to deal with the intrusion of social media

Not long ago Science Editor Marcia McNutt published an appalling editorial entitled “Due process in the twitter age“, where she claimed that social media created an anxiety and added a sense of urgency to the post-publication peer review (PPPR) of reported scientific research. In a post at Science Transparency, we swiftly retorted that if the scientific establishment kept paying attention to blogs like Retraction Watch to conduct their business, they will only have themselves to blame for the current crisis. In our post we felt compelled to quote a Londoner from the Daily Mail (UK) who described the intrusion of social media in the most eloquent terms:

Social Media has turned us all into the baying masses of the medieval witch hunts, with no mediators of our hysterical views, and with the loudest, most ignorant and angry up at the front with their burning tweeting torches.

It would seem that Science magazine has decided to review their own position regarding how they intend to deal with the piracy of PPPR by social media. Marcia McNutt now claims that Science magazine will spearhead the implementation of TOP (Transparency and Openness Promotion), a set of new standards of transparency and reproducibility for the publication of scientific research. This initiative is inspired by the policy forum piece “Promoting an Open Research Culture” published in Science nearly an year ago. In fact, at Science Transparency we argued in support of this policy.

A Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution; Sir James Dewar on Liquid Hydrogen, 1904 (oil on canvas) by Brooks, Henry Jamyn (1865-1925); The Royal Institution, London, UK.

A Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution; Sir James Dewar on Liquid Hydrogen, 1904 (oil on canvas) by Brooks, Henry Jamyn (1865-1925); The Royal Institution, London, UK.

Transparency, availability of raw data, and full disclosure of all tools required by a person skilled in the art to reproduce the work is surely all that is needed to ensure the validity of reported research. This is true today as it was three centuries ago, when scientists were asked to perform their experiments in front of an audience at the Royal Institution. At Science Transparency we welcome the implementation of these TOP protocols as the best route to do away with corruption in science and to end the current hysteria promoted by social media in regards to the reproducibility crisis, real or perceived.

 

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Data Fabrication, Data Falsification, Misconduct, New York Times, Peer Review, Retraction, Science, Scientific Crisis, Scientific Misconduct, Scientific publication, Scientific Reproducibility, Scientific Research, Scientists who cheat

On The New York Times editorial “Scientists who cheat”

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Public!, take note: There is fake science!

And who will handle the crisis?

Scientists’s peers let’s hope, or we slide into hysteria.

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RELATED READING

Nature June 2, 2015 editorial Misplaced Faith: The public trusts scientists much more than scientists think. But should it?

New York Times June 1, 2015 editorial Scientists who cheat.

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