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A Survey on Data Reproducibility in Cancer Research Provides Insights into Our Limited Ability to Translate Findings from the Laboratory to the Clinic
Published: Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Author: Aaron Mobley et al.

by Aaron Mobley, Suzanne K. Linder, Russell Braeuer, Lee M. Ellis, Leonard Zwelling

Background

The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries depend on findings from academic investigators prior to initiating programs to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic agents to benefit cancer patients. The success of these programs depends on the validity of published findings. This validity, represented by the reproducibility of published findings, has come into question recently as investigators from companies have raised the issue of poor reproducibility of published results from academic laboratories. Furthermore, retraction rates in high impact journals are climbing.

Methods and Findings

To examine a microcosm of the academic experience with data reproducibility, we surveyed the faculty and trainees at MD Anderson Cancer Center using an anonymous computerized questionnaire; we sought to ascertain the frequency and potential causes of non-reproducible data. We found that ~50% of respondents had experienced at least one episode of the inability to reproduce published data; many who pursued this issue with the original authors were never able to identify the reason for the lack of reproducibility; some were even met with a less than “collegial” interaction.

Conclusions

These results suggest that the problem of data reproducibility is real. Biomedical science needs to establish processes to decrease the problem and adjudicate discrepancies in findings when they are discovered.

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