A news blurb about “The Reproducibility Initiative” caught my attention a few days ago. Started by cancer researcher Elizabeth Iorns, this program offers scientists a means of validating their experiments at outside laboratories. Validation tests are performed by one of more than 1000 expert providers (including VT for some tests) through the Science Exchange. The tests are performed blind so there are no worries about “stealing” ideas or results and are provided on a fee-for-service basis. Certificates are provided for experiments that are found to have reproducible results. This type of validation has apparently been endorsed by the likes of Nature and PLOS One.
Is this type of validation the wave of the future in scientific research? Will all studies be subject to outside review at this level? What are the benefits?
- Anomalous results would be highlighted by the verification tests.
- May help to improve the quality of published research.
- Gives outsiders an independent verification that data is correct. The public doesn’t have to solely trust in affiliation, funding source, publication reputation, etc. (Corburn p.67) to assure them.
- Consortia like Science Exchange give even small organizations access to high-tech research level tests and knowledge without having to own the equipment and expertise themselves.
Are there drawbacks to such rigorous validation? Probably, yes.
- It doesn’t solve most issues related to the science-public power dynamic.
- Requiring validation would be inherently distrustful, not to mention expensive.
- Core ethical issues of how to practice science are not addressed, rather honesty is forced through policing of results.