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Landmark: Nonreplicated research openly identified

What’s hot? What’s not?/Niklas Bildhauer, Wikimedia

By biotech giant AmGen. From Nature News:

A biotechnology firm is releasing data on three failed efforts to confirm findings in high-profile scientific journals — details that the industry usually keeps secret.

The idea emerged from discussions at a meeting focused on improving scientific integrity, hosted by the US National Academy of Sciences in 2015. Sasha Kamb, who leads research discovery at Amgen, said that his company’s scientists have in many instances tried and failed to reproduce academic studies, but that it takes too much time and effort to publish these accounts through conventional peer-review procedures.

This problem has been around forever, but recently, its seriousness has begun to attract attention. For example,

In 2012, Amgen researchers made headlines when they declared that they had been unable to reproduce the findings in 47 of 53 ‘landmark’ cancer papers1. Those papers were never identified — partly because of confidentiality concerns — and there are no plans to release details now either, says Kamb, who was not involved with that publication. He says that he prefers to focus on more-recent publications.

The three studies that Amgen has posted deliberately do not make a detailed comparison of their results to previous papers, says Kamb. “We don’t want to make strong conclusions that someone else’s work is wrong with a capital W,” he says. More.

Well, it’s better than the usual mere pious promises of reform.

The article goes on to discuss the problem of scientists not wanting to dump on the work of peers they may feel indebted to or need later or who may be in power later. (That’s really what they are talking about, same as in any industry). The trick is to make replication studies fundable and career-safe.

The problem here isn’t shoddy science so much as science that can’t build on what, for career safety reasons, can’t be tested. Once it is recognized it is probably fixable.

See also: Replication as key science reform

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