Begley 2015 Circ Res

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Begley CG, Ioannidis JP (2015) Reproducibility in science: improving the standard for basic and preclinical research. Circ Res 116:116-26.

» PMID: 25552691 Open Access

Begley CG, Ioannidis JP (2015) Circ Res

Abstract: Medical and scientific advances are predicated on new knowledge that is robust and reliable and that serves as a solid foundation on which further advances can be built. In biomedical research, we are in the midst of a revolution with the generation of new data and scientific publications at a previously unprecedented rate. However, unfortunately, there is compelling evidence that the majority of these discoveries will not stand the test of time. To a large extent, this reproducibility crisis in basic and preclinical research may be as a result of failure to adhere to good scientific practice and the desperation to publish or perish. This is a multifaceted, multistakeholder problem. No single party is solely responsible, and no single solution will suffice. Here we review the reproducibility problems in basic and preclinical biomedical research, highlight some of the complexities, and discuss potential solutions that may help improve research quality and reproducibility.


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Selected text quotes

  • The opportunity is to introduce, demand, and reward a level of rigor and robustness in designing, conducting, reporting, interpreting, validating, and disseminating research that is currently lacking from many areas of biomedical research.
  • Over the recent years, there has been an increasing recognition of the weaknesses that pervade our current system of basic and preclinical research. This has been highlighted empirically in preclinical research by the inability to replicate the majority of findings presented in high-profile journals. The estimates for irreproducibility based on these empirical observations range from 75% to 90%. These estimates fit remarkably well with estimates of 85% for the proportion of biomedical research that is wasted at-large.
  • The key challenge is to ensure the most efficient, effective use of precious research funds. .. Addressing this concern is central to ensuring ongoing confidence of and support from the public.
  • Confirmation bias in scientific investigation unavoidably makes even the best scientists prone to try to find results or interpretations that fit their preconceived ideas and theories.
  • The number of publishing scientists has grown over the years, with over 15 million scientists publishing ≥1 article that was indexed in Scopus in the period 1996–2011. Biomedical research is the most prolific scientific field in this regard. It is practically impossible for even the most knowledgeable expert to maintain direct knowledge of the work done by so many other scientists, even when it comes to his/her core discipline of interest.