Reproducibility in science is a very difficult question, with much that has been said about it from industry, government and researchers themselves, for a good summary please see Nature Special on reproducibility.
Many more things can and will be said about this complex issue, but I wanted to ask a different question: do we not already have a good exemplar of reproducibility when we look at our favorite recipe sites? There are list of ingredients, pictures of the finished product, and of course plenty of detailed instructions. There are even places for novice cooks to tell the recipe owner “hey this is hard to reproduce” or “it does not work with Indian saffron”.
Why doesn’t the methods section of our papers not look like that?
I would like to introduce the members of the Society for Neuroscience to an initiative that has been trying to move the methods to look a little more like your favorite recipe site, by asking authors to do a little more thorough job when listing their key ingredients, such as antibodies.
It has been going on for a couple of years years as an agreement between several of the key journals in neuroscience, which ask authors to provide an RRID, or a unique identifier for key biological reagents in their methods sections. Currently these RRIDs are generated for antibodies, organisms and software tools.
However, we know that many journals will allow authors to add the RRIDs to their papers even if the journals are not officially pushing authors themselves, so we hope that you will join the charge with your next paper. Please go to scicrunch.org/resources and search for your key biological resources, open the “cite this” box and copy the citation into your methods. This way, tracking down the ingredients used in any paper becomes much easier and that is of course the first step in experimental reproducibility.
About Anita Bandrowski
Dr. Bandrowski trained as a neurophysiologist at UCR and Stanford, however moved to bioinformatics with the human genome project at Celera Inc., seeing that high throughput science has much to teach biologists. Currently working at the center of research in biological systems at UCSD on the Neuroscience Information... More