Over the past decade or so, it’s come to light that biomedical research may not be as accurate as once presumed. “There is newfound recognition that many procedures, methods, and approaches to doing research produce findings or conclusions that aren’t as reliable as originally thought,” said Steven Goodman, MD, MHS, PhD, associate dean of clinical and translational research and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
Explore this issue:October 2017
In fact, a 2016 article reported that more than 70% of 1,576 surveyed researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments (Nature. 2016;533:452–454). The data reveal sometimes contradictory attitudes toward reproducibility. Of those surveyed, 52% agreed that there was a significant crisis of reproducibility.
The short-term consequences of this breakdown in biomedical research are that promising clinical trials and research already in the pipeline will go unfunded or will be underfunded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other large federal agencies. “This will delay the development of new therapies, which could lead to continued patient suffering and mortality,” said Lamont R. Jones, MD, MBA, vice chair of the department of otolaryngology at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. “Consequently, bright and innovative men and women interested in biomedical research who are faced with a mountain of school debt and the grim prospect of the future of research funding may not choose a research career,” he said.
Lisa Ishii, MD, MHS, associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and chief quality officer for clinical best practices at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore and research and quality coordinator for the Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, believes that faulty studies and tight funding will result in the dissemination of flawed scientific data. “If those data are then applied in clinical care, for example, that could lead to waste or, in the worst case, actual harm to patients,” she said.
Kurt Amsler, PhD, associate dean of research and professor in the department of biomedical sciences at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine in Old Westbury, New York, pointed out that the documented and publicized issues of a lack of quality control and poor reproducibility in biomedical research have also led to a decline in public trust in the biomedical research enterprise, which could lead to the government questioning the value of continuing its strong support for the funding of biomedical research (F1000Res. 2014 May 28;3:119; EMBO Rep. 2017 Sep;18:1493-1496).