Enforcing Reproducibility Improves the Accuracy of Scientific Predictions

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Overselling scientific data contributes to misunderstanding, failure, and disappointment in real-world settings.
Overselling scientific data contributes to misunderstanding, failure, and disappointment in real-world settings.

It may be time to hold scientific meetings dedicated to reproducibility issues in research, according to Daniel J. Drucker, MD, PhD, senior scientist at the Lunenfeld Tanenbaum Research Institute at Mt. Sinai Hospital, and a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto in Canada. In a recent article, Dr Drucker cites the chasm between biomedical scientists' astounding preclinical success and meager clinical translatability.1 According to Dr Drucker, researchers should apply the rules used for clinical trials to preclinical research.

“We are bombarded daily with amazing scientific advances, often in preclinical studies, which regularly promise a cure for a disease or a game changer in approach to treatment. The reality is more sobering,” Dr Drucker told Cancer Therapy Advisor.

There are few data about whether the reproducibility problem is worse, or whether the scientific community is more aware of the issue. The scientific community needs to be introspective and should examine the current standards surrounding this issue. “The reproducibility problem also has great financial costs attached to it, estimated to be several billion dollars by some authorities,” said Dr Drucker.

A clinician and scientist, Dr Drucker has spent 30 years developing new drugs for diabetes, gastrointestinal disease, and obesity. Over the past 3 decades, it has been common for high-profile journal articles to proclaim the beginning of the end for these diseases, only for the findings to never be discussed again. One problem is that researchers often carry out dozens of basic science experiments, but do not report the majority of them. Only studies with positive findings are reported.

Dr Drucker proposes having reproducibility symposia, and testing hypotheses in more than 1 animal model, before making a splash over a potential scientific advance. His students and postdocs are required to replicate the effects of a potential therapeutic in several animal models before exploring the potential mechanism in tissue and cell cultures. This can prevent underdeveloped conclusions that lead to false hopes among clinicians and their patients.

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