Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 8, 2016

Science’s ‘Gold Standard’ Needs Polish, Lawmakers Say

House appropriators are worried that a significant number of researchers aren’t meeting the “gold standard” for science — the ability to reproduce results.

The House is debating a proposed fiscal 2015 spending bill that covers the National Science Foundation — which funds roughly 24 percent of the federally backed basic research at higher-education institutions in the U.S. The committee report associated with the measure states:

The Committee concurs in the view that the gold standard of good science is the ability of a research lab to reproduce a method and finding, and shares the growing concern that a significant amount of recent research cannot be easily reproduced.

The report goes on to direct NSF to provide the panel with recommendations for addressing the replication issue, and a  “description of how NSF will support research on practices that improve research methods, increase research transparency and allow for increased scientific replicability.” Various news outlets have written about the issue in recent years.

The head of the National Institutes of Health, Francis A. Collins, and NIH’s principal deputy director, Lawrence A. Tabak, wrote in a piece in Nature earlier this year that this “lack of reproducibility” is due to a “complex array” of factors, including “poor training of researchers in experimental design; increased emphasis on making provocative statements rather than presenting technical details” and publications not reporting “basic elements” of the design of an experiment.

They add: “Exacerbating this situation are the policies and attitudes of funding agencies, academic centres and scientific publishers.”

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