The bioscience enterprise has produced remarkable discoveries to illuminate our understanding of human biology and disease while creating numerous benefits for the health and welfare of society. Physicians and PhD scientists in academia and industry conduct basic and clinical research, spending over 100 billion dollars yearly in the US alone. The results of this research eventually appear in over one million scientific papers per year. But the direction of scientific progress is not exclusively forward. Much research is exploratory in nature, and tentative conclusions are both expected and beneficial. Research publications will contain errors, despite procedures designed to avoid them.
But today we face claims, from a variety of sources, that published bioscience research is far less reproducible than anyone previously imagined. If the most extreme of these claims is true, the integrity of the research enterprise is challenged, threatening the public support and funding that sustain it.
In this commentary, former Dean of Harvard Medical School Jeffrey Flier writes about how common research irreproducibility is, what causes this irreproducibility, and what potential responses might be to address the problem. He concludes that while more research into the nature and causes of irreproducible bioscience research is needed, we know enough today about the relevant facts to initiate remediating actions in many areas. Since so many institutions and cultural domains are involved, multiple approaches must be tried, with as much communication and, where possible, coordination among them.Full Text