Improving Transparency in Scientific Research

August 7, 2012 | Posted by Elizabeth in Reproducibility |

Academic scientists today face considerable barriers to transparency and access to research. Investigators are often pushed to publish positive results, with little support to publish null or negative results, or even the raw data upon which a publication is based. The sharing of data within or between labs is equally disincentivized, due to the competitive nature of publishing “first”, and the increasing competition for grants in a tighter funding environment.

The outcomes of such an environment in turn serve to stall the progress of scientific research, and play in contrast to some of the big science initiatives of the past decades. The Human Genome Project itself was an multi-institutional initiative with scientists participating at research institutes across the US, UK, Japan, France, Germany, and Spain. More recently, the FlowCAP Project demonstrated the power of open collaboration in science, where scientists all over the world were working on algorithms for flow cytometry analysis, combing their data to produce more robust systems of analysis.

It would seem apparent then that progress in biological research has relied, and will continue to necessitate, notions of transparency and collaboration. Leroy Hood, president of the Institute of Systems Biology notes that as biology is an informational science, it requires “holistic, high-throughput, integrative” approaches to big science developments. Transparency in scientific outcomes is necessary to provide investigators with a basis to build off earlier successes or learn from past mistakes. Collaboration through transparency provides efficiency in the development and interpretation of results, especially in a research climate of increasingly specialized expertise.

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