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Jan
28

Policy: NIH plans to enhance reproducibility

I just read the commentary by Francis Collins and Lawrence Tabak in Nature re: reproducibilityAs we have pointed out before, its possible the NIH should look closer to home for data quality issues. Reproducibility is important, but the databases NIH creates and funds will reach more people and have more impact on science, so its critical they are correct.

So many opportunities to critique this – how about..its taken 3 years to respond to the papers on reproducibility and even the Economist got to this faster than the NIH. Quote “The recent evidence showing the irreproducibility of significant numbers of biomedical-research publications demands immediate and substantive action.” In my definition of immediate – 3 years does not come into it. Should they have responded in 2011?

And a solution is ..to make NIH grant biosketches include more information on impact of papers cited.. Wow I can just see the hyper inflated information we will all be reading now. e.g. I was first author on study X, did all the work and it has had massive impact on Y. Come on this is just silly, flies against the collaborative nature of science and just ramps up the competition to crazy heights. If HHMI mandated all grants should be written in an unreadable font would the NIH follow suit, honestly?

The following made me laugh “University promotion and tenure committees must resist the temptation to use arbitrary surrogates, such as the number of publications in journals with high impact factors, when evaluating an investigator’s scientific contributions and future potential.” Hasn’t this been trotted out a 1000 times by others and what has been done about it, zero. And thus speaketh the big voice on high and all will be fixed?

By the way, this was published in Nature (a journal with a well known high impact factor). This just smacks of the ultra rich telling the poor what to do and how to do it. Hypocrisy?

Yes fix the reproducibility issues, but also fix everything else that is in dire need too. And try not to hold too many meetings about it or write a few more commentaries in Nature before acting. An old adage “actions speak louder than words”. Another is that you are ” judged on what you do today and not what you did yesterday”. Maybe I made the latter one up. Three years is a long time to wait on this, but for some things we have been waiting longer and I am sure it will continue.

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