In early February, the biotech company Amgen Inc. and noted biochemist Bruce Alberts introduced a new online publication to report on failed attempts by academics, medical device or biotech companies to reproduce others published findings.
Initially, the new channel will report on Amgen’s fruitless efforts to duplicate three studies in diabetes and neurodegenerative disease. Amgen hopes that this will persuade other industry and academic researchers to describe their replication efforts and help the scientific community clarify the issues with replication.
F1000Research, an open access publisher, will begin posting raw manuscripts subsequently adding peer reviews along with reviewers’ names. The new Preclinical Reproducibility and Robustness channel will assess submissions charging authors $150 to $1000 before inviting open peer review. Peer-recommended studies will qualify for indexing in databases including PubMed and Scopus.
As Sasha Kamb, an Amgen senior vice-president for research says, allowing academic scientists and companies to share both contradictory findings as well as successful validation will limit the wasted time spent on following up flawed results. Former National Academy of Sciences president, Bruce Alberts from the University of California believes that publishing contradictory data will compel original authors to explain discrepancies besides acknowledging the replicators efforts. Often, other journals aren’t interested in publishing such efforts because they lack novelty.
Currently, the scientific community learns about irreproducible research through innuendo which is counterproductive to scientific progress, yet retractions are increasing. In fact, four years ago, Amgen expressed alarm when a former scientist co-authored a Nature commentary revealing that Amgen researchers could reproduce only 6 out of 53 landmark cancer biology reports.
Supporters of the new project include Brian Nosek of the University of Virginia who heads up the nonprofit Center for Open Science which works with contract labs to reproduce experiments from influential cancer biology papers. The National Institutes of Health also supports the new channel and Amgen’s leadership position. According to Elizabeth Iorns of Science Exchange in Palo Alto, California, giving scientists a low-barrier means to share replication attempts could produce significant benefits.
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