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Discussions of Reproducibility

The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology's Joseph Haywood tells the US National Institute of Health's Lawrence Tabak in a letter that, while the organization applauds NIH's efforts to ensure research reproducibility, it considers the guidelines it has developed to be premature, inflexible, and likely to introduce burdensome paperwork on peer reviewers.

Along with several journals, NIH developed a set of guidelines for reporting preclinical research. These guidelines stress the use of proper statistical analyses, reporting the methods used, and data sharing. "The hope is that that these guidelines will not be viewed as onerous, but as part of the quality control that justifies the public trust in science," said a joint editorial from Nature and Science, two journals involved in the development of the guidelines, published in November.

A number of journals, Nature News says, has adopted these measures, including three run by FASEB, but many others have not. For instance, Cell Press' Biophysical Journal says it supports their objective, but that the guidelines were "not pertinent or applicable to the types of science" it covers.

Haywood adds best reporting practices vary by field and could include reporting the husbandry and strain characteristics of lab animals for one and medications given to lab animals for another, and that any guidelines should take those differences into account.

Tabak tells Nature News that such guidelines are often improved through an iterative process and are refined over time.

TetraLogic's Glenn Begley adds that the effectiveness of the guidelines may be influenced by whether researchers take on the spirit of them or just the letter of the law.

"If 'improved rigor' merely becomes a box-checking exercise, rather than a fundamental embrace of good scientific method that is inculcated into every experiment, we will have failed," he says.