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February 10, 2016

Senate Appropriators Worry About ‘Gold Standard’ of Research, Too

House appropriators have worried the “gold standard” of science — the ability to reproduce results — isn’t being met in a significant amount of recent research. It looks like Senate appropriators have the same concern, at least as it applies to some biomedical research.
The subcommittee report accompanying a Senate Appropriations subcommittee-approved fiscal 2015 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education  (which covers the National Institutes of Health) states that the Appropriations Committee is “deeply concerned with reports that some published NIH research cannot be easily reproduced.”
“While this does not necessarily negate findings, the lack of clear re-producibility undermines scientific credibility and progress,” the report goes on to state.
Earlier this year, the committee report accompanying the fiscal 2015 House spending bill that covers the National Science Foundation (which funds non-medical science and engineering research) expressed similar worries about the “gold standard.”
By its own account the National Institutes of Health is the largest funding source of medical research in the world and for the current fiscal year, the research agency has a roughly $30 billion budget. Earlier this year, Francis Collins, the head of the agency, and Lawrence A. Tabak, the NIH’s principal deputy director, wrote a piece in Nature on their own concerns about the issue of reproducibility in biomedical research and actions the agency was taking or looking into.
The panel’s suggestions for the NIH:
The Committee encourages NIH to consider implementing best practices to facilitate the conduct of reproducible research. In particular, NIH should evaluate methods to encourage transparency in the reporting of methods and findings that would assist other scientists to replicate, validate, and extend previous research.
  • pancheetah

    Thanks for highlighting this concern. It’s not the only concern but certainly one that needs to be addressed in order to boost consumer confidence.
    I’d also like the standards for what constitutes a longitudinal study to garner more attention. Frequently the standards employed are almost laughable. Two to three weeks or a couple months are not long enough and invite the eventual appearance of unintended consequences.

  • Malcolm Kantzler

    A subcommittee report to the Senate Finance Subcommittee, concerning appropriations to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), put forth concerns that aspects of NIH research “undermines scientific credibility and progress.”

    Every year NIH researchers come up with discoveries and new insights into everything from disease to the controlling proteins for the process of the molecular machines that carry-on the work inside cells which determine human health and longevity.

    I am sure that if an apples-to-apples comparison of the work product, progress, and credibility of NIH and the Senate and House of Representatives were done, the report weighing against the Congress would be on the scale as an elephant against a Cheetah. The Congress had best NOT think of finding ways to justify cuts to the critically important and effective research that is done under U.S. government auspices at the NIH.

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